Alcoa Leads the Dow Higher

The Dow is down slightly on not much news. As of 1:15 p.m. EST the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is down 13 points, or 0.09%, to 13,970. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) is up less than a point to 1,521.

There was just one U.S. economic release today.

Report

Period

Actual

Previous

New initial unemployment claims

Feb. 2 to Feb. 9

341,000

368,000

Source: MarketWatch U.S. Economic Calendar.

This morning the Department of Labor reported that there were 341,000 new initial unemployment claims last week, close to the five-year low of 330,000. That's 27,000 below last week's number of 368,000 and below analyst expectations of a fall to 360,000. The less volatile four-week moving average moved up 1,500 to 352,000. We will have to wait and see if this is a temporary dip from last week's snowstorm or if the downtrend is real.

US Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance Chart

US Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance data by YCharts.

Today's Dow leader
Today's Dow leader is Alcoa (NYSE: AA  ) , up 1.4% to $9.22. Earlier today, China's state-owned enterprise CITIC Group bought a stake 13% in Australia's Alumina for $467 million. Alumina's main asset is a 40% stake in a joint venture with Alcoa called Alcoa World Aluminum & Chemicals.

The aluminum market has seen some hard times since the boom of 2005 to 2008. Aluminum prices are down 33% from the highs hit in 2008 as an inventory glut and slowdown in the world economy hit prices hard.

Alcoa was lucky to avoid buying Alcan at the peak of the market in 2008, being outbid by Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO  ) , which paid an astronomically high $38 billion. Without the crippling acquisition, Alcoa has been able to take many steps to cut costs and take high-cost production facilities offline. While the aluminum market looks like it will grow slowly this year, the long-term outlook is bright, as many car manufacturers are switching to the metal to keep weight down and fuel efficiency up.

Materials industries are traditionally known for their high barriers to entry, and the aluminum industry is no exception. Representing 14.7% of 2011 global production in this highly consolidated industry, Alcoa is in prime position to take advantage of growth that some expect will lead to total industry revenue approaching $160 billion by 2017. Based on this prospective and several other company-specific factors, Alcoa is certainly worth a closer look. For a Foolish investment perspective on this global giant, simply click here to get started.


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