McDonald’s 5.7 percent January sales boost eases investor concerns; stock jumps

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OAK BROOK, Ill. (AP) _ McDonald’s Corp. today reported strong sales increases in Europe and modest gains in the United States last month, easing investor concerns about fallout from an economic slowdown.

The world’s largest fast-food chain said same-store sales rose 5.7 percent in January, driven by the international growth and the weak dollar which boosted overseas results.

The better-than-expected results pushed McDonald’s shares up $1.84, or 3.4 percent, to $56.30 in morning trading. The stock had been down 7 percent in 2008 after its streak of 56 straight months of higher year-over-year U.S. comparable sales ended in December.

Comparable or same-store sales – those from restaurants open at least 13 months – are a key measure of retailer performance because they measure growth at existing restaurants rather than from newly opened ones.

For the month ended Jan. 31, U.S. same-store sales rose 1.9 percent, boosted by sales of breakfast and dollar-menu items. Europe same-store sales jumped 8.2 percent on strong sales in France, Germany and the U.K.

Same-store sales in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa rose 7.8 percent, as local menu options and extended operating hours boosted results in Australia and China.

Systemwide sales rose 13.4 percent during the month.

Goldman Sachs analyst Steven Kron said the results stem concerns that the U.S. business may be under more pressure.

“We continue to expect near-term economic challenges to impact sales at restaurants broadly in the first quarter, but believe McDonald’s is well-positioned to navigate these challenges owing to its tiered menu platform and everyday value focus,” he said in a note to investors.