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Earnings Preview: Eyes on Boeing production update

CHICAGO (AP) -- Boeing Co. is expected to report a third-quarter profit on Wednesday, but investors are likely to be more interested in where its commercial airplane programs are headed.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Boeing has a huge backlog of orders for its commercial planes. It has had to boost production of both its 737 and long-range 777 aircraft. It is also still working to speed up production of its new 787.

Boeing's stated goal has been to get 787 production up to 10 per month by the end of this year. Investors will be looking for an update on whether that can still be achieved.

Boeing is expected to finalize plans to offer a new version of the 777 this year. It's a popular plane that first flew in 1994, and Boeing has said it will probably offer a revamped, more efficient version later this decade.

Meanwhile, on Friday it announced it would slow production of its jumbo 747 due to weaker-than-expected demand. The move surprised no one, and Boeing said it would have a minimal financial impact.

WHY IT MATTERS: Boeing's main competitor, Airbus, is arguably pulling ahead of Boeing on some key planes. Boeing's 787 has dominated the market for long-haul, midsized planes in recent years. But the new Airbus A350, which is in flight testing now, will compete against larger versions of the 787 as well as the revamped 777, which is several years away from delivery. Airbus also got an early jump on Boeing on smaller planes by offering its A320 with new, more efficient engines. Boeing eventually did the same thing with its competing 737.

Boeing and Airbus both have to bet years in advance on which kinds of planes airlines will want. Bet right and they can dominate the market for jets of that size. A wrong bet can mean they have an expensive flop.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts surveyed by FactSet are expecting an adjusted profit of $1.55 per share on revenue of $21.69 billion.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: Net income of $1.03 billion, or $1.35 per share. That was a decline from the prior year, in part because of increased pension expenses. Revenue was $20 billion.