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6 Stocks Driving the Economy in 2012

Alcoa (AA - Get Report)

Company Profile: Alcoa is an aluminum, alumina and fabricated aluminum products producer. Operating in 31 countries, Alcoa's products are used around the world in aircraft, automobile, commercial transportation, packaging, building and construction, oil and gas, defense and industrial applications.

Share Price: $10.02 (Jan. 18 Close)

Year-to-Date Increase: About 17.5%

TheStreet Ratings Grade: Hold. TheStreet Ratings team is concerned that even though Alcoa's fourth-quarter sales increased, net income decreased, and the company now has weak liquidity.

Standard & Poor's View: Leo Larkin, analyst, Standard & Poor's, calls Alcoa a "special situation turnaround" and an investment vehicle through which investors could really benefit from any surge in aluminum demand. Larkin is seeing great profitability and less volatile earnings throughout the course of the business cycle as Alcoa lowers its breakeven point through cost-cutting and a ramp-up in production at new, lower-cost plants. The company, says Larkin, continues to reduce its debt and now is placing greater emphasis on boosting free cash flow in order to fund growth projects.

Alcoa is attractively valued compared to industry peers, Larkin adds.

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