Alcoa Inc. Announces Layoffs, AK Steel Looking at a Loss

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Happening now: Alcoa, Inc. announces layoffs of technology workers, AK Steel Corp. reported a loss and copper is enjoying some gains thanks to the strong dollar.

Alcoa Lays Off 50

Alcoa Inc. laid off 50 workers at its research center in suburban Pittsburgh and is planning to sell an alumina refinery in South America as the company focuses on cutting expenses and reducing aluminum production because of low prices.The cuts at the research facility, made last week, represented 8% of the Alcoa Technical Center’s 600 employees and were part of an “internal reorganization to more closely align with the priorities of our businesses,” spokeswoman Tracie Gliozzi told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Tuesday.

Imports Lead to AK Steel Loss

AK Steel said yesterday that it would swing to a loss in the first quarter, due to a familiar refrain from the steel industry, unexpectedly high levels of imports.

Shares in the company, down nearly 30% this year, fell 7.6% to $3.88 in recent after-hours trading on Thursday.

The West Chester, Ohio-based steel producer expects a 14% sequential drop in shipments. “Excess global steel making capacity and continued challenging global economic conditions have resulted in a substantial increase in the level of steel imports into the US,” exacerbated by a stronger U.S. dollar, the company said in a statement. So far this year, AK Steel added, imports of flat rolled carbon steel products have risen nearly 60% and affected the company’s shipments and pricing power.

Copper’s 3-Week Peak

Copper prices climbed on Friday to a near three-week high after Chinese inventories fell for the first time in two months, a signal that demand in the top metals consumer is slowly recovering after the long Lunar New Year holiday. The  blockade of the Grasberg mine in Indonesia marked its fifth day, further constraining supply.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange rose 1.4% to a session peak of $5,929.50 a metric ton, the highest since March 2 and extending a jump of 3.2% on Thursday.
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