PITTSBURGH (AP) — Alcoa Inc. said Thursday it had boosted its annual forecast for global aluminum consumption, driven by higher demand from China.

The largest U.S. aluminum producer now expects worldwide demand for the lightweight metal to shrink by 5.5 percent rather than 7 percent as forecast in July, when Alcoa reported its third straight quarterly loss.

The improved outlook was prompted mainly by economic stimulus spending in China, which has bolstered expected growth in aluminum consumption to 4 percent from zero, said Kevin Lowery, an Alcoa spokesman.

"Shovel-ready stimulus initiatives (in China) is one of the big drivers," he said. China is the world's biggest producer and consumer of aluminum.

Alcoa and other aluminum makers have struggled since last year with sharply lower orders for the metal used in products ranging from beer cans to jumbo jets. Alcoa's latest quarterly loss reflected slumping orders from key customers in the aerospace, automotive, commercial transportation and construction industries.

The weak demand has driven up stockpiles and depressed prices of the metal, and many aluminum makers have responded by curbing production.

Shares of Alcoa rose 46 cents, or 4 percent, to close at $12.01. In after-hours trading, the stock gained 2 cents to $12.03.