Net profit came in at $136M for the quarter, compared with a loss of $454M a year earlier, and a loss of $201M in the previous three months.

Sales rose by almost a quarter, from $4.2bn to $5.2bn, despite a fall in aluminium prices.

The Pittsburgh manufacturing giant also forecast a small increase in global aluminium demand this year.

“We improved profits and revenues and maintained our solid cash position,” said Alcoa chief executive Klaus Kleinfeld.

“Prospects for Alcoa and aluminium continue to be excellent.”

Alcoa is traditionally the first company in the Dow Jones industrial average index to report quarterly earnings. It is, therefore, seen as something of a barometer for what is to come.