I wonder if the executives at Alcoa (NYSE:AA) thank their lucky stars each evening that they were unsuccessful two years ago in their effort to acquire their Canadian rival and former sibling, Alcan.

As you probably recall, the north-of-the-border company went to London-based Rio Tinto (NYSE:RTP), which now is being bogged down by debt taken on in the transaction. Nevertheless, while a number of resources and commodities have begun to slowly retrieve their sea legs -- I'll count oil and copper among those being slowly strengthened -- the plight of Pittsburgh-based Alcoa is a prime example that the aluminum markets remain fragile. Indeed, that state of affairs is causing the company to chop its dividend, cut costs in whatever way it can, and attempt to raise cash in the form of stock and notes.

On the stock side, and after recently laying off 15,000 employees, the company will shrink its payout to $0.03 a share, from the previous $0.17. The cut represents the first time in more than a quarter-century that Alcoa has reduced its payout. The savings from the reduction are expected to amount to $400 million annually. There is also the possibility that another round of layoffs could be in the company's future.

Beyond that, once-proud Alcoa is targeting a series of cost-cutting efforts that it hopes will retain another $2.4 billion in its cash kitty. And the company's capex is targeted for a reduction to $850 million from $1.8 billion -- or about 53% less than it spent last year.

On the security issuance front, management has visions of selling at least 150 million shares of common stock, with the possibility that another 22.5 million could be added. Beyond that, the offering could include $250 million in convertible notes. (The company's shares closed Monday at $6.12 and were down about another $0.50, or more than 8%, at midday on Tuesday.)

However, as Alcoa emerges from its multi-faceted approach to cutting costs and raising funds, the aluminum business clearly isn't the place to hang your hat these days. Century Aluminum (NASDAQ:CENX) has plummeted from nearly $80 a share in May to a Monday close at $1.54. During about the same time, Kaiser Aluminum (NASDAQ:KALU) has plunged from above $75 to slightly below $19. And Reliance Steel & Aluminum (NYSE:RS) has similarly slid to about $24 from above $78 in July.

The obvious message here for my Foolish friends: Stay as far removed from the aluminum business (and investments therein) as your legs will carry you.  

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. The Fool has a disclosure policy that's stronger than steel.