NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Aluminum producer Alcoa Inc., the first Dow component to report results for the first calendar quarter of 2011, turned in its strongest quarterly profit in nearly three years, though its sales fell slightly short of expectations.
Alcoa (AA, Fortune 500) had net income from continuing operations of $309 million, compared to a $194 million loss in the same quarterly last year. Excluding one-time charges, the company had earnings of $0.28 per share, a penny ahead of the consensus estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Financial.
Alcoa's sales for the quarter ended March 31 were $6 billion, up 5% compared to last year but a touch short of the $6.1 billion analysts were expecting.
Alcoa Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld said the "excellent" first quarter results reflected improved profitability across all business segments.
"This was a total team effort," he said in a prepared statement.
Alcoa reaffirmed the its previous projection that global aluminum demand would grow 12% in 2011, following a 13% growth rate in 2010.
"Our outlook for the rest of 2011 and beyond remains very positive due to the world's growing population, increasing urbanization, and aluminum's advantages as a light, strong and recyclable material," Kleinfeld said.
Shares of Alcoa slipped 3% in after-hours trading.