What happened

Alcoa (AA 1.44%) stock raced out of the gate Friday, as shares of the metals giant jumped 5.6% through 10 a.m. EDT. The company reported a big earnings beat last night.

Expected by analysts to earn $0.46 per share pro forma on sales of $2.65 billion in its fiscal first quarter of 2021, Alcoa instead reported a $0.79 adjusted profit, and sales of $2.87 billion.  

Green arrow trending up over the numerals 2021

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Alcoa boasted that Q1 2021 earnings set post-2018 records for both revenue and income. Pro forma profits tripled sequentially and reversed a year-earlier loss. Sales were up 20% both sequentially and year over year. Additionally, Alcoa was profitable for the quarter according to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) -- earning $0.93 per share.  

Now what

Both volumes shipped and price per ton improved for Alcoa last quarter, indicating strong demand for aluminum and leading Alcoa management to predict "a strong 2021 based on continued economic recovery and increased demand for aluminum in all end markets."

Specifically, Alcoa is projecting growing volumes of both bauxite and raw aluminum shipped this year, and "double digit" increases in shipments of "value-add products" (i.e., aluminum manufactured in "specific shapes and alloys such as billet, slab, foundry and rod.")

Alcoa didn't provide precise numbers for what it expects to do in terms of sales and profits this year, but for what it's worth, analysts are forecasting sales in excess of $10.4 billion (up 12% over last year) and profits of $2.58 per share (versus a loss in 2020).