For my money, and despite falling a penny short of its per-share income expectations, Pittsburgh-based Alcoa (NYSE: AA) Monday led off earnings season for the major companies with one of the city's strongest performances since "Mean" Joe Greene moved from the Steelers to participating in memorable soft-drink commercials.

For the quarter, the nation's biggest aluminum producer recorded income from continuing operations of $364 million, or $0.32 per share, excluding $38 million of costs related to restructuring and debt tender offer costs. In the same quarter a year ago, its comparable results were $137 million, or $0.13 per share. Revenues for the most recent quarter were $6.6 billion, a 27% increase from the second quarter of 2010.

Three of Alcoa's four segments checked in with solid growth in after-tax operating income. Alumina's $186 million ATOI amounted to a 31% year-over-year increase, while Flat-Rolled Products were up 32% to $2.1 billion, and Engineered Products and Solutions increased 22% to $1.37 billion. The $201 million recorded by Primary Metals was flat versus a year-ago, as energy and raw-material costs, along with a negative currency impact, offset higher prices and production.

As CEO Klaus Kleinfeld noted: "Although the economic recovery is uneven, the overall outlook for Alcoa -- and for aluminum -- remains positive. Demand for aluminum continues to rise, and so does growth in our major markets." He also reiterated an expectation of 12% growth for aluminum demand this year, followed by a doubling by 2020.

And despite the wobbly economy, all of Alcoa's end markets achieved sequentially higher revenues in the quarter. Indeed, revenues generated by commercial transportation, packaging, and building and construction all grew by double digits. At the same time, the automotive, industrial gas turbines, and industrial products markets increased their top-line contributions by 5%, 8%, and 9%, respectively.

You won't be surprised to know that China continues to lead the parade of nations in aluminum production and demand. According to Kleinfeld, the country will turn out about 18.35 million metric tons during 2011, versus a demand of 19.1 million tons, making for a 750,000-ton shortfall.

We'll gain an even firmer grip on the outlook for aluminum when Alcoa's smaller brethren, Kaiser Aluminum (Nasdaq: KALU) and Century Aluminum (Nasdaq: CENX), report their results on July 27 and Aug. 4. At the same time, with rising copper prices increasingly resulting in the substitution of aluminum for the red metal, it's sensible to also monitor the results and forecasts of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE: FCX) on July 21, and Southern Copper (NYSE: SCCO) four days later.

In the meantime, since the market appears less than enthralled by Alcoa's solid lead-off results, I intend to redouble my attention to the big aluminum producer. Why not join me by simply placing the company's name on your individual version of My Watchlist?

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.