NEW YORK—Boeing aircraft orders fell by nearly half in 2015 even as deliveries rose to an annual record, the aerospace giant said Thursday.

Boeing said that net orders for new commercial aircraft dropped to 768 last year from 1,432 in 2014, putting it behind rival Airbus, which is expected to report well over 1,000 orders for last year.

But, encouraged by continued healthy passenger growth in the airline industry and sharply lower fuel prices, Boeing was able to step up production and increase commercial aircraft deliveries to 762, slightly above its own forecasts and bettering the previous record of 723 deliveries in 2014.

In deliveries, Boeing was expected to best Airbus, which appeared on track to turn over about 635 aircraft to customers for the whole of 2015, up just six from a year earlier. The European company is slated to publish its figures on January 12.

The deliveries underscore another likely banner year for the Chicago-based Boeing's earnings. Full-year financial numbers will not be released for several more weeks, but third-quarter revenues were up 8.7 percent from a year earlier and net earnings were 25.1% higher.

Boeing has forecast 2015 revenues for its Commercial Airplanes division in a $65-66 billion range, up from $60 billion in 2014.

"We had a solid year of orders in 2015, maintaining a strong, balanced backlog that will help ensure a steady stream of deliveries for years to come," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and chief executive Ray Conner.

Boeing shares were down 4.0% at $133.26 in afternoon trade amid a broader selloff on Wall Street.