Alcoa Kicks Off Earnings Season With Improved Sales

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AlcoaAlcoa Inc. (AA) said Monday it turned a first-quarter profit on stronger sales at higher prices that were offset by a weaker dollar and higher costs for energy and raw materials.

Alcoa said business improved from a range of customers, including aerospace, automotive, commercial transportation and packaging industries. It marked the fourth consecutive quarterly profit for Alcoa as it pulled out of two difficult years hit by the recession.

The Pittsburgh aluminum manufacturer also expects business to continue to improve, reaffirming its forecast of a 12 percent increase in global aluminum demand this year.

Alcoa Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld said the company improved profitability across all business segments and said his outlook remains very positive for 2011 and beyond.

Alcoa's first-quarter net income was $308 million, or 27 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $201 million, or 20 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.

Sales increased to $5.96 billion from $4.9 billion a year ago. That fell short of expectations from analysts, who expected sales of $6.16 billion, according to FactSet. Excluding special items, Alcoa earned 28 cents per share. That beat analysts' forecasts by a penny.

Kleinfeld's positive outlook for the rest of the year follows recent positive economic data that indicate the U.S. economy continues to recover. Last week automakers reported new cars sales in March were up 17 percent from a year ago. And the Commerce Department reported the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter, up from 2.6 percent in the third quarter.

Alcoa said average aluminum prices rose about 15 percent during the quarter, but earnings were affected by a weaker dollar against other currencies and higher raw materials costs.

Alcoa released earnings after the market closed. Shares fell 54 cents, or 3 percent, to $17.23 in after-hours trading.

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