* Alcoa $9 bln market cap lowest in Dow Industrials by $23
* Alcoa stock price 83 percent below record high
* Alcoa shares down YTD against strong gains for Dow, S&P
By Rodrigo Campos and Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, April 9 Alcoa Inc gets a lot of
attention at the start of every quarterly earnings season.
The aluminum producer's cache is burnished by its membership
in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and its long history
of being the first of the so-called blue chips to report its
results each quarter.
However, Alcoa's earnings performance is so frequently
divergent from key end markets like autos and construction, and
its stock is such a notorious laggard, that some in the market
question the company's status as a bellwether.
"I know accountants there that are like sweating blood to
get this stuff out. They want to lead off, but for the longest
time now, I don't know that they are a bellwether for the
economy in general," said Kim Forrest, a senior equity research
analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.
Take the stock's performance: Alcoa shares are down 3.9
percent for the year to date, while the Dow has gained 11.6
percent and the S&P 500 has added 9.7 percent.
Alcoa's stock hit a cyclical bottom in March 2009, around
the same time the Dow and S&P 500. But while both market gauges
have recently posted historical highs, Alcoa is 83 percent below
its record high of $48.77 hit in mid-July 2007.
Alcoa is also by far the smallest stock in the Dow, with a
market capitalization of $8.9 billion, less than a third of the
next smallest, Travelers Cos at $32 billion.
Arguably, its diminutive size could be grounds for removing
Alcoa from the Dow, although the index manager is loathe to make
frequent changes, and Alcoa has been in the index since 1959.
"We wouldn't be able to comment on potential changes to our
indices. We consider that information to be market-moving,
non-public," said Dave Guarino, spokesman for S&P Dow Jones
"We make changes to that index on as-needed basis, which
generally occurs only after major corporate events like
acquisitions, bankruptcies, dramatic shifts in business," he
The last component change was in September 2012, when it
swapped in UnitedHealth Group for Kraft Foods
following Kraft's spinoff of its North America grocery business.
In announcing the change, the index committee cited the
diminished market cap of the restructured Kraft, now called
Mondelez International, as well as its lower percentage
of U.S.-based revenue. At the time, Mondelez's market cap
exceeded $47 billion.
For its part, Alcoa does not promote itself as a bellwether
for the entire stock market or economy. A company spokeswoman
declined to comment.
Still, some analysts say Alcoa may be a valuable indicator
of end markets that consume aluminum, such as car and plane
manufacturing and home building.
"If we are making such a big deal out of the housing
recovery, maybe people should be paying attention to Alcoa,"
said Doreen Mogavero, CEO of Mogavero, Lee & Co in New York.
In fact, Alcoa's profit beat market expectations handily
when it reported first-quarter results after the stock market's
close on Monday.
Moreover, it projected global growth this year across
several end markets, including 9 to 10 percent growth in
aerospace, 1 to 4 percent in automotive, and 4 to 5 percent in
building and construction.
But even those projections belie its bellwether status.
While its earnings per share rose, Alcoa's revenue declined
nearly 3 percent from a year earlier, its fourth consecutive
quarter of year-over-year sales drops.
By contrast, U.S. automotive output has risen every month
since December 2010.
The story's not all that different when looking at the
aerospace and construction sectors, either.
Aerospace equipment output has logged 18 straight months of
year-over-year increases. Residential construction spending has
risen year-over-year in every month since August 2011 and has
been growing at a double-digit pace each month since last June.
Meanwhile, Alcoa sales of $5.8 billion not only declined,
but fell short of analysts' projections of nearly $5.9 billion.
Perhaps not surprising, Alcoa shares fell on Tuesday following
the release of the results late Monday.
Alcoa's low share price of $8.39 at Monday's close earns it
a meager 0.4 percent overall weighting in the Dow industrials.
So even a big day for Alcoa barely moves the Dow's needle.
Alcoa has even less impact on the broader and market-cap
weighted S&P, in which it registers a weighting of just 0.06
percent, making stocks like Air Products and Intuit
twice as important for the index. Starbucks
and Target each weigh about five times what Alcoa does.
It would take almost 50 Alcoas to match Apple's weight.
If nothing else, however, Alcoa appears to be a good proxy
for the price of its main product: Aluminum. A simple
correlation analysis over the past two years of daily activity
produces a positive correlation coefficient of 0.935 - nearly
one-for-one directional relationship.