Europe, China help McDonald's offset soft U.S. sales in January

Reuters
A postcard showing the Paris landmark the Eiffel Tower is seen in front of a McDonald's fast-food restaurant in Paris
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A postcard showing the Paris city landmark, the Eiffel Tower, is seen in front of a McDonald's fast-food restaurant in Paris, January 22, 2014. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

(Reuters) - McDonald's Corp on Monday reported better-than-expected global sales at established restaurants for January as gains in Europe and China helped the company offset weak numbers in United States, where customers remained cautious in their spending.

McDonald's, the world's biggest restaurant chain by revenue, said worldwide sales at restaurants open at least 13 months rose 1.2 percent last month. That was above the analysts' average estimate of a rise of 0.7 percent, according to Consensus Metrix.

But in the United States, same-restaurant sales, a closely watched gauge of performance, fell 3.3 percent, a deeper decline than the 1.6 percent drop that analysts expected.

The company blamed the frigid cold and snow that hit large parts of the country, but analysts said McDonald's U.S. patrons continue to be pinched by the slow U.S. economy.

"It's the same story: the mid-to-low income consumer continues to be frugal," said Edward Jones analyst Jack Russo.

McDonald's fared better elsewhere. Sales rose 2 percent in Europe, which edges out the United States as its biggest revenue market, and were up 5.4 percent in the Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa (APMEA) region, helped by growth in China.

France and Britain were standout markets in Europe, while Germany was a laggard.

Analysts expected Europe to be up 1.3 percent and for APMEA to rise 2 percent.

McDonald's, which is grappling with tougher competition and a lackluster global economy, warned last month that January sales would be weak.

McDonald's shares fell 15 cents to $95.77 in early trading on the NYSE.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Phil Berlowitz)

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