CHICAGO McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) , the world's largest fast-food chain, said on Friday that sales in the United States rebounded in January from a flat December, sending its stock up more than 2 percent.
Same-store sales rose 1.9 percent in the United States, compared with an 8.2 percent rise in Europe. The Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa unit reported same-store sales growth of 7.8 percent. Overall they rose 5.7 percent at McDonald's restaurants open at least 13 months.
"These results and indications that the latter part of January showed acceleration, could stem recent concerns that the domestic business may be under more meaningful pressure," Steven Kron, analyst at Goldman Sachs, said in a research note.
Analysts have been closely watching McDonald's U.S. sales for signs of how much the struggling economy is affecting the fast-food giant. Flat December same-store U.S. sales sent McDonald's shares down when they were reported on January 28.
"I think that really spooked the market," John Owens said of the December U.S. sales report. At the same time "they said U.S. comp sales rebounded in January and this just confirms that."
Owens noted that the rebound came amid the same type of bad weather that had hurt December sales.
McDonald's had estimated that a weak U.S. economy would cut same-store sales by 1 percentage point to 2 percentage points and said late last month that it expected U.S. same-store sales to rise at least 1.5 percent in January, .
The fast-food chain had also forecast an 8 percent to 9 percent increase in same-store sales in Europe for January and forecast a 6 percent to 7 percent increase forecast for the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa region.
Total systemwide sales rose 13.4 percent in January, helped by the weaker dollar, but only 7.1 percent in constant currency.
McDonald's shares were up $1.39 at $55.85 on Friday on the New York Stock exchange..
(Reporting by Brad Dorfman and Christopher Kaufman, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Dave Zimmerman)