The Aluminum Company of American, the nation's biggest aluminum producer, announced yesterday that it would raise the price of aluminum ingots by 3 cents a pound, effective Friday.
Aluminum ingots, the basic blocks from which other aluminum products such as containers and engine blocks are fabricated, will go from 48 cents to 51 cents a pound.
Alcoa also announced price increases in some of its fabricated products as well, although not in rigid container sheets from which beverage cans are made. Sheets were raised 11 per cent in January.
Alcoa officials met with administration economists yesterday morning to inform them of the increase. Sources said the company conferred with Charles L. Schultze, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Daniel Brill, who has been designated to be assistant secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy.
A spokesman for the Council on Wage and Price Stability, which monitors wage and price developments in the economy, said the administration had no comment on whether the increase is justified or not.
A spokesman for Alcoa said the company "took account of their (administration officials) views and concerns about the overall problem of inflation."
The government has no power beyond public pressure to rescind or reduce price or wage increases it does not like.
Government economists said that aluminum smelters who make ingots are operating close to full capacity both because demand has risen for their product and because shortages of electric power on the West Coast due to the drought has forced cut-backs in production.
Smelting alumina into aluminum ingots requires large amounts of electricity.
A government economist said that about one-third of the nation's aluminum-smelting capacity located on the West Coast, where manufacturers have traditionally been able to take advantage of low-cost, hydroelectric power.
Coupled with electricity shortages has been an increase in demand from auto makers who are using increasing amounts of aluminum to lighten cars and trucks and increase mileage on 1978 models.
As one economist noted, aluminum companies must expand their capacity markedly over the next several years and also will face sharply higher energy and construction costs. These factors contribute to rising prices, he said.
The aluminum industry also faces a new labor agreement withing a few months.
No other aluminum makers - such as Reynolds or Kaiser - followed Alcoa's lead yesterday.