Alcoa Inc posted a narrower fourth-quarter loss on Monday as aluminum prices inched up and the manufacturing industry showed small signs of recovering from the recession.

The net loss was $277 million, or 28 cents per share, compared with a loss of $1.19 billion, or $1.49 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2008, when the economic downturn began.

The company reported an operating loss of $266 million, or 27 cents per share.

Revenue fell to $5.43 billion from $5.68 billion but was 18 percent higher than the third quarter, the Pittsburgh-based company said. Alcoa also had a positive cash flow of $761 million in the quarter.

Analysts on average were expecting revenue of $4.86 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The loss followed a narrow profit in the third quarter, which had been preceded by three consecutive quarterly losses for the aluminum company, traditionally the first Dow component to report each quarter.

Aluminum, used in automobile and plane manufacturing, and for kitchen wrap and beverage cans, reached a peak of $3,380 per tonne in July 2008. But it slumped 35 percent later as the global economy went into recession and has only slowly risen. On Monday the metal was selling in London at around $2,330.

(Reporting by Steve James; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)