Alcoa swings to surprise profit

The aluminum producer and Dow component posts unexpected profit as the first major company to report third-quarter results.

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By Julianne Pepitone, CNNMoney.com staff reporter

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. posted on Wednesday a surprise profit and revenue that beat estimates for the third quarter.

Excluding one-time charges, Alcoa said it earned 4 cents per share. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial, which typically excludes one-time items from its estimates, had forecast a loss of 9 cents per share, versus earnings of 37 cents per share a year ago.

Alcoa's (AA, Fortune 500) net income fell 75.8% from a year ago to $77 million, or 8 cents per share.

Revenue fell 34.3% in the quarter to $4.6 billion, but still beat analyst forecasts of $4.55 billion.

"Despite unfavorable currency and energy headwinds, our performance this quarter indicates that Alcoa is weathering the economic storm and is in excellent shape to benefit when the market recovers," said chief executive Klaus Kleinfeld, in a prepared statement.

As the recovery picture remains hazy, investors are watching Alcoa -- a Dow component and the first major company to report third quarter earnings -- for clues about how corporate results in general are likely to fare in the third quarter.

In a conference call with analysts, Kleinfeld said Alcoa expects its sales to the North American automotive sector to increase by 10% to 15% in the second half of the year, but that its revenue from the commercial construction sector will decline by 21%.

Alcoa also forecast that global aluminum consumption will increase 11% in the second half of 2009, adding that there are signs that its key markets are stabilizing.

Revenues also got a boost from an increase in aluminum prices, which rose to $1,972 per metric ton in the third quarter from $1,667 per metric ton in the second quarter.

Shares of Alcoa were up 77 cents, or 5.4%, to $14.97 in after-hours trading. To top of page

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