Dec. 13 - Summary: Boeing to sell 737 Max aircraft to Southwest Airlines in $19 billion deal, CEO Jim Albaugh says model will anchor company sales for next two decades; Federal Reserve steady, but ready to aid economy; Stocks slide as Fed fails to offer concrete stimulus plans. Conway G. Gittens reports.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL Plane orders at Boeing are gathering more speed. Southwest Airlines ordered 208 single-aisle planes, including 150 of Boeing's 737 Max redesign. The deal is worth about $19 billion and Boeing calls this its largest order on record. Jim Albaugh runs the commercial airplane division at Boeing. We spoke to him as part of the Reuters Manufacturing Summit, where he said the plane is in demand thanks to a new energy-efficient engine. SOUNDBITE: JIM ALBAUGH, CEO, BOEING COMMERCIAL AIRPLANES (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We just had a commitment from Lion Air in Indonesia for 201 Max airplanes. We are seeing a lot of interest in this airplane from the Middle East. We are seeing interest in this airplane in China. If you look over the next twenty years we think there will be some 33,500 airplanes sold and we think about 23,000 of these airplanes will be the single aisle version, airplanes like the Max." Boeing, however, has to clear a major backlog for that prediction to become a reality. The Federal Reserve left interest rates near zero at its final meeting of the year. Policymakers admit "that the economy has been expanding moderately" but "strains in global financial markets continue to pose significant downside risks to the economic outlook." The Fed kept its pledge to keep rates exceptionally low until 2013. Oil prices closed above $100 a barrel. Traders cited geo-political jitters involving Iran for a big rally. But gold added losses one-day after posting its biggest drop in three months. On the rest of Wall Street: the stock market turned negative without word of any new Fed stimulus. The euro dropped to its lowest point in nearly a year. Stocks in euro-using countries like Germany and France fell, but in the UK, which does not use the euro, stocks rallied. Conway Gittens, Reuters