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When a 127-Year-Old U.S. Industry Collapses Under China's Weight

  • Alcoa cutting back on aluminum making is sign of regime change
  • Prices for metal tumbled 27 percent in past year on LME
Rolled aluminum at the Alcoa Inc. Davenport Works facility in Riverdale, Iowa.

Rolled aluminum at the Alcoa Inc. Davenport Works facility in Riverdale, Iowa.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Updated on

Alcoa Inc.’s latest aluminum-making cutback is signaling the end of the iconic American industry.

For 127 years, the New York-based company has been churning out the lightweight metal used in everything from beverage cans to airplanes, once making it a symbol of U.S. industrial might. Now, with prices languishing near six-year lows, it’s wiping out almost a third of domestic operating capacity, Harbor Intelligence estimates. If prices don’t recover, the researcher predicts almost all U.S. smelting plants will close by next year.