Income from continuing operations was $644 million, or 74 cents a share, excluding restructuring and impairment charges. That beat analysts estimates of 65 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial.
Revenue in the quarter rose 20%, to $7.8 billion.
Analysts had trimmed fourth-quarter estimates to reflect an eight-week strike at a Cleveland plant. The strike has since been settled.
Alcoa's earnings are seen as the traditional start of the quarterly earnings reporting season. The company, a Dow component, also is looked at as a barometer of the economy since many of its products are used to create a wide array of items from soda cans to autos to aircraft engines.
In October, Alcoa kicked off the third-quarter earnings reporting season on a sour note when it missed analyst expectations. Since then, Alcoa announced a broad restructuring program that will cut 5% of its work force and lead to a spinoff of its molded soft-alloy business.