Alcoa rings an alarm for global manufacturing

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Alcoa Corp. stock rallied late Wednesday after the industrial giant announced a multiyear review of its business, but tucked in the quarterly update was a dire warning for the manufacturing sector.

The company’s quarterly updates are widely followed for their predictions for the aluminum, alumina and bauxite markets, as Alcoa AA, -1.54%  is a major global supplier of all three.

Alcoa said Wednesday it continued to project a global aluminum deficit, ranging between 800,000 and 1.2 million metric tons, down slightly from the previous quarter’s estimate of a deficit between 1 million and 1.4 million metric tons.

See also: IMF says global economy to grow at slowest pace since 2008 financial crisis

It raised a red flag, however, for global aluminum demand. It predicted a lower appetite for the metal for the full year 2019, versus its previous estimate of demand growth.

“The change is driven by weakening macroeconomic conditions, trade tensions between the U.S. and China, and contracting manufacturing activity, especially in the global automotive sector,” Alcoa said.

The bodies and parts of newer automobiles, including parts of the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for decades, Ford Motor Co.’s F, +0.00%  F-150 pickup truck, are increasingly made of aluminum alloys rather than steel. And more manufacturers, driven by consumers’ environmental concerns, are replacing plastic goods with aluminum.

For the alumina market, Alcoa projected a global surplus for 2019 that was slightly higher than the previous quarter’s predictions, thanks to “faster restarts and expansions in the world ex-China” as well as lower alumina demand due to disruptions at several aluminum smelters in China. The bauxite market was also expected to have a larger surplus this year, which Alcoa pinned on higher supply from Guinea partially offset by stronger demand from Chinese refineries.

Alcoa reported a wider quarterly loss and revenues in line with Wall Street expectations, and the stock rose more than 6% in the extended session as the company said it launched a review of its smelting and refining capacities, including asset sales, with an eye toward lowering costs and boosting profits.

Alcoa last month got a downgrade from Goldman Sachs, which cited expectations of lower prices and fewer catalysts for the producer. The bigger picture for Alcoa was “unchanged and fundamentally challenged” by a slowing China, growing U.S. steel capacity and fears of global recession, Goldman’s Matthew Korn wrote in a note.

Alcoa shares have declined 28% this year, contrasting with gains of 19% for the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.20%  and 16% for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. DJIA, -0.08%  . The shares are down nearly 50% in the past 12 months, versus advances of 6.4% and 4.7% for the S&P and the Dow, respectively.

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