Alcoa Inc. reported a surprise profit for the first quarter after it sold more aluminum to a wide range of customers, from automobile manufacturers to beverage can makers.
The largest U.S. aluminum maker also benefited from cost-cutting steps that made its operations more efficient.
The company's stock price jumped more than 5 percent in after-hours trading Tuesday.
Alcoa reported net income of $94 million, or 9 cents a share, on Tuesday. While that's a 70 percent decline from net income of $308 million, or 27 cents a share, a year ago, analysts had been expecting a loss of 4 cents a share.
Revenue totaled $6 billion, up from $5.95 billion in the year-ago quarter. Analysts predicted revenue of $5.77 billion.
Alcoa's performance can reflect broader economic trends because it mines, processes and sells aluminum used by a vast number of industries -- including automobiles, aircraft, construction and packaging for beverage cans.
Alcoa's report gives an optimistic start to what is expected to be the weakest earnings season in more than two years. Analysts expect earnings for companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index to decline 0.1 percent compared to a year ago, according to FactSet.
"It looks like they're going to get the earnings season off on a good note," said Argus Research analyst Bill Selesky.
Alcoa cut some smelting and refining operations earlier this year. Demand fell late in 2011 because of concerns about a slowing global economy. Those cuts, among others put into place during the recession, helped improved productivity.
The company said it recorded higher sales from automotive, commercial transportation and aerospace manufacturers.
Alcoa released its earnings after the market closed. Shares rose 5.6 percent to $9.84 in the extended trading session.