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Will Fish McBites Hoist McDonald’s Sales?

The Exchange

McDonald's (MCD) is set to post its February same-store sales Friday morning, providing a view on how the wide distribution of Fish McBites, along with other, non-promotional, non-seafood nugget menu items, have been performing in recent weeks.

It's still early in 2013, but the year got off to a slow start for McDonald's, continuing what's been a difficult stretch in terms of comparable sales. In January, total comps were negative for only the second month in almost 10 years -- the other time was in October. Sales rebounded and had an upbeat reading the next month, before going flat in December.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based fast-food giant began 2012 on a high note, particularly in the U.S. Unfortunately for the Big Mac seller, as the year progressed comp sales charted an uneven, though generally lower, path. So the trend has been downward, and three of the last four months have failed to produce a positive showing in same-store sales. Here's the overall performance going back to the start of last year:

McDonald's Total Monthly Sales

Breaking out McDonald's three main regions -- the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa -- the track is similar. The worst regional showing by far came last month, when APMEA had a negative 9.5% print in comparable sales. Comps cover all McDonald's restaurants, whether operated by the company or franchisees and open at least 13 months. They exclude the effect of currency translation.

McDonald's Regional Sales

Despite the trend, McDonald's still reported growth in same-store sales for all of 2012, up globally 3.1% and in the U.S. by 3.3%. However, for the fourth quarter, comps edged ahead by only 0.1%.

Shares of McDonald's hit an all-time high above $100 in January 2012, though they retreated in the following months and settled around $84 in November (click for a two-year chart). Since then they've rebounded, climbing 15.1% and closing Thursday at $97.09.

McDonald's plans to open 1,500 to 1,600 new locations this year, adding to its existing base of more than 34,000 restaurants.