Shares of Reliance Steel & Aluminum fell more than 11 percent early Thursday after the metals processor and distributor said its first-quarter net income plunged 82 percent as demand for its products fell due to the weak economy.

The Los Angeles company reported net income of $20.1 million (27 cents per share), compared with more than $107 million ($1.46) a year ago. Sales fell more than 18 percent to $1.56 billion.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters on average had expected per-share earnings of 49 cents and revenue of nearly $1.65 billion.

"Given this economic environment, we are proud to have remained profitable, albeit at earnings per share levels we have not seen since the 2001 to 2003 period," Chief Executive David H. Hannah said in a statement. The company's sales to aerospace and energy companies were doing better in relation to other sectors, but were still down from last year, he said.

Reliance shares fell $4.20, or 12 percent, to $32.32 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.