Shares in Raytheon Co. touched an all-time high Thursday after the defense contractor reported higher sales and profits on strong demand for its missiles and other defense systems.

The Waltham, Massachusetts-based company said net sales for the first quarter were $6 billion, up 3.4 percent compared with the first quarter of 2016.

First-quarter net income from continuing operations was $506 million, or $1.73 per share, up 21 percent from a year ago and beating analysts’ expectations.

The average estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.61 per share in revenue of $5.84 billion.

At Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems, net sales rose 2 percent from first-quarter 2016, to $1.75 billion, while operating income jumped 13 percent mainly due to “a favorable change in program mix.”

During the quarter, the missile unit booked $203 million for AIM-9X Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles for the U.S. and international customers and $159 million for Paveway bomb guidance kits for international customers.

On Thursday, the missile unit reported that its naval Standard Missile-6 missile, which has been adapted to handle both air-defense and surface attack roles, had reached full operational capability after a final series of test flights.

During a conference call Raytheon CEO Thomas Kennedy cited an evolving “threat environment that is driving a significant increase in demand signals from every one of our major global markets.”

Raytheon increased its projections for full-year earnings to be $7.25 to $7.40 per share, with revenue in the range of $24.9 billion to $25.4 billion.

The company’s shares have risen more than 9 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has climbed nearly 7 percent. The stock has increased 21 percent in the last 12 months.

Raytheon stock closed Thursday at $156.26, up 99 cents, in trading on the New York Stock Exchange, after hitting an all-time high of $158.87 shortly after the market opened.

Contact senior reporter David Wichner at dwichner@tucson.com or 573-4181. On Twitter: @dwichner

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