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Traditionally known as the kicker-offer of earnings season each quarter, Alcoa (AA - Analyst Report) has begun to get investors' juices flowing after the bell when the American aluminum giant posted earnings of 7 cents per share on revenues of $5.85 billion in the quarter. The initial Dow component to report met EPS estimates while coming out ahead on the top-line; the Zacks consensus expected only $5767 million in the quarter ended June 30.

It was an interesting quarter to predict for analysts: one the one hand, aluminum prices had fallen 10% from March through June, which caused Alcoa to lower overall capacity at its facilities by 11%. On the other hand, manufacturing that includes aluminum-based products -- most importantly airplanes and autos -- saw demand grow in the quarter. Immediately after the earnings announcement, AA shares spiked up to trade at over $8 per share.

That said, the stock had been trading near multi-year lows for weeks, and hasn't been up over $10 per share in over a year. With a Zacks Industry Rank of 250 out of 265, metals firms like Alcoa have been taking it on the chin in recent times, as Alcoa investors I'm sure are quite aware.

Further, with strong downward bias among earnings estimate revisions over the past 60 days -- 8 of the 12 analysts covering Alcoa have downwardly revised for the quarter, with 10 downward revisions for the fiscal year over that time period and no upward revisions -- have saddled Alcoa with a Zacks Rank #4. However, our long-term recommendation as of Monday's closing bell was Neutral.

Aluminum may not quite have the advanced degree of "Dr Copper," but it is still a forward indicator of economic strength and/or improvement. Thus, regardless of Alcoa's "old-school" Yellow Pages-style ticker symbol (AA Plumbers always got more calls than ZZ Plumbers did), the company does have a legitimate claim to kicking off the earnings season each quarter.

And, challenged though the company and its overall industry may be at present, a beat on the top-end has got to be seen as a positive development. At least the market's after-hours traders seem to think it is.

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