PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus and Boeing look set for a photo finish in their annual order race this year, but Airbus was well in front of its rival in the first 11 months as negotiators work out the small print of big U.S. deals clinched at the Dubai Airshow.
Europe's Airbus (PAR:EAD) increased the number of orders by more than 100 to 1,373 since the beginning of January, compared with 1,212 for U.S.-based Boeing (NYS:BA), data by both companies showed on Thursday.
After cancellations, Airbus logged 1,314 net orders.
Boeing remained ahead on deliveries, which drive revenue and are the most widely used benchmark for ranking the top two jetmakers.
It delivered 580 planes compared with 562 from Airbus and looked on course to maintain the industry's No.1 spot for a second year when full 2013 data is released in January.
Encouraged by a mixture of high oil prices and low interest rates, demand for civil airliners remains strong as U.S. airlines replace old models, and airlines from the Gulf to Asia expand their fleets to divert traffic and serve new markets.
Boeing stacked up 259 orders and commitments for a revamped version of its 777 long-haul jet at last month's Dubai Airshow, but more than 200 of them have yet to be posted in its backlog of orders as firm contracts are drawn up.
Airbus won an order for 50 A380 superjumbo aircraft from Dubai's Emirates, but this was also waiting to be finalised and has yet to appear in company data.
The Emirates A380 deal marked a turnaround in orders for the world's largest airliner after a period of slack sales.
Two industry sources said there was speculation that only half the order for 50 aircraft would definitely be fulfilled and that the remaining 25 were subject to reconfirmation, but top Emirates and Airbus officials strongly denied this.
In its latest monthly order update, Airbus confirmed an order for 50 A350s from Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways.
But it suffered a setback for its A330 freighter, whose backlog has been dwindling while cargo markets have been weak.
While celebrating orders for five A330 freighters from Qatar Airways and one from Etihad at last month's air show, Airbus also took a cancellation for eight of the same aircraft from OH-Avion LLC, resulting in a net drop in pending orders.
The aircraft were originally ordered in 2007 by Avion Aircraft Trading, in part for Icelandair, in a deal that never materialized, and there were doubts whether the aircraft would be delivered, Aviation Week reported earlier this year.
Freight markets have been in the doldrums throughout the global financial crisis, but the International Air Transport Association this week reported a 4 percent increase in cargo traffic in October, reflecting an improvement in economic confidence.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Tim Hepher; Editing by Jon Boyle and Jane Baird)