To put it bluntly, owning Boeing (NYSE:BA) stock in 2013 was awesome. The aircraft manufacturer churned out solid results and wowed investors with its growing backlog, and its stock price responded by soaring nearly 80% higher during the year.
Last year was not nearly as fun for investors, despite solid quarterly performances, as the stock price only maintained altitude.
On Wednesday, Boeing released fourth-quarter earnings that immediately sent shares 5% higher, and two charts suggest 2015 will be a better year for its stock price.
By the numbers
First, looking at Boeing's fourth-quarter results: core operating earnings rose 28% year over year to $2.3 billion, with core operating margin rising 190 basis points to 9.6%. That equated to a 23% spike in core earnings per share, to $2.31, over the same quarter of 2013.
It was clearly a strong fourth quarter for Boeing, and full-year core operating earnings rose by 12%, to $8.8 billion, compared to 2013. Core operating margin for 2014 rose 70 basis points to 9.8%, and core EPS checked in with a solid 22% increase to $8.60.
With that out of the way, here are some key topics that suggest Boeing has another strong year ahead.
Beyond the numbers
As Boeing's defense business remains weaker than its commercial segment, it's important to keep an eye on orders and deliveries for commercial airplanes. Fortunately, that business continues to surge.
The chart above essentially shows that commercial orders in recent years outweighed Boeing's falling backlog of orders for its defense, space, and security segment, sending the total backlog to record highs. That trend is not likely to change anytime soon. As you can see in the chart below, Boeing brings in roughly two orders for new aircraft for every one plane delivered.
Investors can thus expect to see Boeing's backlog to continue setting new highs -- which is more than half a decade's worth of revenue transparency few companies can offer. It will be many years before Boeing is delivering more airplanes than it is taking orders for, which emphasizes the extraordinary strength of its business.
"For 2015, we will continue to build on our commercial airplanes market leadership, strengthening and repositioning our defense, space and security business and working to better meet the needs of our customers by focusing on improving productivity, executing to development plans and delivering our industry-leading portfolio of innovative aerospace products and services." Boeing Chairman and CEO Jim McNerney said in a press release.
In the fourth quarter, Boeing delivered 195 planes, which was up from 172 in the prior year's quarter. Investors should keep an eye on Boeing's ability to continue increasing its aircraft production rate through 2015, especially sustaining the pace of ten 787 Dreamliners per month, as that will enable the company to generate stronger cash flow and earnings.
As Boeing continues to deliver strong quarterly performances, increase its dividend, and churn out planes at a faster rate, expect the stock price to react more favorably this year than it did in 2014.