So, from the outside, it looks as if sales haven't increased at all. That's a totally wrong read. Sales have increased nicely in lower-cost metal -- the higher-costs mills being shut down -- which is one reason the earnings are going higher, not lower. To conclude that sales are weak, but that earnings are strong, is fatuous logic at its worst.
But, more important, the company has graciously given us a breakdown of each line item -- and, like it or not, the world's looking up.
Let's start with aerospace. If you want to know when the beginning of the decline in Boeing's (BA) stock came, it wasn't with Boeing's quarter. It was when Alcoa lowered the boom on its aircraft numbers, with CEO Klaus Kleinfeld saying there was a small inventory glut. He might have well have said, "Short Boeing."
Whatever inventory glut there might have been, it has since disappeared, though this transpired as Alcoa took its aerospace outlook up from 7% to 8% to 9% -- which is very important, because many Alcoa watchers thought this number was coming down. Klaus outlined an eight-year backlog of 10,675 large jet orders, with pricing up 2.1% for Boeing and up 5.7% for Airbus. Airline profitability is at a record $18.7 billion and climbing, and there seems to be no reason to think these gains will reverse. Also helping things? The regional jet market has gotten strong, with a 13.2% growth number. That, too, had been previously stalled.
Remember, two million Alcoa fasteners go into each jet, so there's a lot of business on the line. Those aren't pure aluminum numbers, either. A lot of those fasteners are value-added with titanium mixed in.
Your takeaway? Buy Boeing, United Tech (UTX), Honeywell (HON) and Precision CastParts (PCP), all of which had been dinged by the results of the previous Alcoa quarter. Also consider buying Allegheny Technologies (ATI), the big allow producer, on any pullback -- because, when you hear "titanium," you should think, "Allegheny."
As for the auto market, it's just plain strong. Despite what you've heard from the various auto dealers, inventories are back to normal -- the time needed to clear them is down 13 days from earlier this year -- and production growth is rising. Alcoa's looking for a 2%-to-5% growth number here, and that's for the overall fleet, not the switching from steel to aluminum that's going on behind the scenes. Europe is not as strong, and is expected to grow at 0% to 4%, but that's up from negative 1% to plus 3%. China is staying at 6% to 10%.
Takeaway: You can buy Ford (F) or General Motors (GM) off of this, and I would buy GM right into the ridiculous downgrade from hold to sell by Morgan Stanley today. Where was that analyst when the stock was at $41?