Pittsburgh-based aluminum majordomo Alcoa (NYSE:AA) assumed its usual position on the field Monday, ready to kick off the new earnings season for the blue-chip stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Unfortunately, the kick turned out to be something of a squib.

No, the company's results weren't terrible. In fact its primary transgression involved coming in short of analysts' expectations, a mistake that cost its shares over 10% today.

The culprit was a loss of $277 million, or $0.28 per share, versus a loss of $1.19 billion, or $1.49 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2008. Revenues were $5.43 billion, lower than the $5.68 billion in the same quarter of last year, but higher by 18% than the prior quarter and 12% better than consensus estimates. So what happened then? Backing out charges, Alcoa earned a penny a share for the quarter, down from the $0.06 a share that analysts had expected.

Alcoa's profit for the quarter was hindered by a combination of higher energy costs and the decline in the dollar. Its production during the quarter was actually higher by 1.8% at 897,000 tons, which were accompanied by the purchase of 207,000 tons to meet sales commitments.

CEO Klaus Kleinfeld was positive on the results for his company, when he said:

This was a tough year for the aluminum industry -- a price crash, demand destruction, and credit crunch. Yet, today Alcoa is stronger than when the year started. We reshaped our cost structure and portfolio for profitable growth. And, we built the cash reserves to weather current economic uncertainties and invest in opportunities for future growth. Alcoa will benefit from those achievements for many years to come.

If Kleinfeld is right, analysts' forecasts for year-over-year improvements both for the next quarter and the full year 2010 should prove accurate. We'll be able to tell more about aluminum's recovery -- with prices having moved in the last 12 months from a low under $0.60 a pound to over $1.00 currently -- when we see the results of other companies.

In that group, I'd include Century Aluminum (NASDAQ:CENX) and Kaiser Aluminum (NASDAQ:KALU). But for a fuller look at the broader recovery, I'd also pay close attention to steelmakers Nucor (NYSE:NUE) and U.S. Steel (NYSE:X), along with the biggest of the publicly traded copper producers, Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX).

For now, I'd take note that Alcoa's shares were up more than 30% in just the past month before today's stumble. This seems to me to be a company worth close monitoring.

Alcoa has received four stars from Motley Fool's CAPS players. Have you weighed in on this big aluminum maker?

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. He does welcome your questions or comments. The Fool has a light and fast disclosure policy.