Updated with premarket stock quote.

NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- In a first-look at the coming earnings season,

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

did the markets proud, posting a surprise profit during the third quarter.

Alcoa shares Thursday were adding 6.7% in premarket action. The stock closed Wednesday at $14.20, up 31 cents.

The investing public had been awaiting quarterly news from the world's biggest aluminum producer, as the company is seen as the New Hampshire primary of earnings season. As an early mover and the first of the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

companies to post results, analysts had expected Alcoa to post yet another loss -- this time at 9 cents -- following three straight quarterly losses.

Instead, after the closing bell on Wednesday, Alcoa blasted past those expectations. In a press release, the company reported a $77 million profit, which landed at 8 cents per share. After excluding a series of one-timers and restructuring items, the bottom-line landed at 4 cents per share, which more than handily bested the forecast.

In the same quarter last year, Alcoa showed $268 million in net income, or 33 cents per share.

Looking ahead, Alcoa also said it expected aluminum consumption to rise by 11% in the latter half of 2009.

Revenue slumped to $4.62 billion from $7 billion in the year-ago period, though the third-quarter showing topped the street's $4.55 billion forecast. Increasing prices helped buoy sales, as realized prices for primary aluminum increased to $1,972 per metric ton from $1,667 per metric ton in the previous quarter.

But it was Alcoa's cost-cutting moves that nabbed the headlines. The company managed to rack up overhead and procurement savings totaling some $375 million and $1.61 billion, respectively. Alcoa also finished the quarter with $1.1 billion cash on hand.

"The financial and operational measures we took in the first half of the year are having a strong positive impact on our cash position and profitability," Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld said in a statement. "Despite unfavorable currency and energy headwinds, our performance this quarter indicates that Alcoa is weathering the economic storm and is in excellent shape to benefit when the market recovers."

-- Written by Sung Moss in New York

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