Net income was $242 million, or 21 cents per share. That includes one-time gains like income from selling a hydroelectric project.
Without those gains, the company would have made six cents per share — exactly what analysts expected, according to FactSet — on revenue of $5.90 billion. Sales were higher than the $5.58 billion that analysts predicted.
A year ago, the company posted a fourth-quarter loss of $191 million, or 18 cents per share, on revenue of $5.99 billion, and a loss after special items of 3 cents per share.
The weak global economy has hurt demand for aluminum used in everything from airplanes to soda cans. But Alcoa sees demand growing 7 per cent in 2013, up from a 6 per cent gain in 2012, with the best prospects in aerospace but slower improvement in demand for autos, packaging, and building and construction materials.
The company said it hit record profits in its aluminum-rolling and product-making businesses while cutting costs in its mining and refining or "upstream" segment.
Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld said the company overcame volatile aluminum prices and global economic weakness and was in "strong position to maximize profitable growth" in 2013.
Alcoa is the first company in the Dow Jones industrial average to report fourth-quarter earnings. Because it makes aluminum for so many key industries, investors study Alcoa's results for clues about the health and direction of the overall economy.
Alcoa shares ended regular trading where they began, unchanged at $9.10. In after-hours trading following the earnings report, the stock gained 14 cents to $9.24.