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What can I say? It could have been worse. And the company (as well as investors) dodged the big bullet.

Boeing (BA) reported fourth quarter earnings per share of $1.56 a share including 45 cents a share in special items. Those special items included a 50 cents a share gain from a tax settlement. Wall Street analysts had been looking for $1.12 a share without special items. Revenues dropped almost 8% from the fourth quarter of 2009 and, at $16.6 billion, fell short of the Wall Street consensus of $17 billion.

Looking out at 2011 things weren’t much better. The company told Wall Street to expect earnings of $3.80 to $4.00 a share for the year. That’s well below the pre-earnings report consensus projection of  $4.55 a share. The big ding in 2011 comes from increased pension expenses, projected to cost the company 58 cents a share more in 2011 than in 2010.

But nobody owns Boeing now for the current quarter or even for the current year. (Which is why the stock is down only 4% on today’s grim earnings report.) The questions for investors are When do sales for the 787 Dreamliner kick in? and What will the profit margins for that plane be? (if there are any profit margins.)

On that front the news was better. Boeing said 2011 commercial airplane delivery will be 485 to 500 aircraft and production is sold out. The guidance included the first deliveries of the 787 and the 747-8 at a combined 25 to 40 units.

And, amazingly enough, on current numbers—including discounts and penalties for late delivery—the 787 program will be profitable, Boeing told analysts in its conference call. (The company also expressed optimism that it will be able to reduce costs on the 787 once the plane is in full production.) That assumes the company will deliver on its new schedule, which projects first deliveries into service in the third quarter of 2011. The 787 has completed about 75% of its required test flying hours and the company said it believes that it is on schedule for full FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) certification including extended-range performance standards

I think today’s drop is yet another chance to get into this stock in advance of the third quarter beginning of 787 sales (Think what a relief that will be—if it happens, of course.) below the $72 buying limit that I stated on January 7 and restate here.

As of January 26, I’m leaving my Jubak’s Picks target price at $83 a share.

Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. The mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund, may or may not now own positions in any stock mentioned in this post. The fund did own shares of Boeing as of the end of December. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of December see the fund’s portfolio at