Shares of U.S. airlines rose on Monday amid growing sentiment the economy may be on the mend and that the airline industry is poised for mergers.

Gains came after U.S. data that showed consumer spending increased slightly faster than expected in January while the U.S. manufacturing sector also grew. Experts say travel demand follows economic recovery.

The Arca airline index <.XAL> rose 2.99 percent. Shares of United Airlines parent UAL Corp rose 6.9 percent to $18.34 on Nasdaq.

My guess on UAL is that the market is pricing in the potential for a merger, said Morningstar airline analyst Basili Alukos. He noted comments made by airline executives last week at the Reuters Travel and Leisure Summit.

The chief financial officers for UAL Corp and US Airways Group told Reuters they were open to mergers. Their pro-consolidation view was echoed a day later by the president of the Air Line Pilots Association.

(Reporting by Kyle Peterson; editing by Gunna Dickson)