McDonald's sales increase 5.7%

By Anastasia Tomazhenkova: McDonald's Corp., world's largest chain of fast food restaurants, reported comparable sales rose 5.7% in January, spurred by growth in Europe and Asia, but sales growth in the U.S. lagged.

Comparable-store sales at U.S. outlets rose 1.9% in the United States, compared with an 8.2% rise in Europe. In Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, January comparable sales increased 7.8% as locally relevant menu options and extended operating hours drove strong performance in Australia, China and many other markets.

Burgers and chicken sandwiches spurred sales in Europe, McDonald's largest region by revenue, while longer hours in two thirds of the 875 Chinese outlets spurred Asian sales. Breakfast sales increased on a new 2.49 dollars McSkillet breakfast burrito in the U.S., where growth has slowed as consumers contending with declining home values and higher fuel prices have pared spending.

``The foreign economies, which have been lagging the U.S. for some time, seem to be able to withstand the downturn we're having right now here in the U.S.,'' said Peter Jankovskis, who helps manage 1.2 billion dollars, including McDonald's shares, at Oakbrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

McDonald's rose 73 cents, or 1.4%, to 54.46 dollars yesterday in New York Stock Exchange trading. The stock dropped 7.6% this year through yesterday after rising in each of the past five years.

Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner disclosed last month's same-store sales figure on January 28, telling analysts to expect an increase of 1.5% in the U.S. He projected gains of 8% to 9% in Europe and 6% to 7% in Asian and Pacific countries.

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