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McDonald's sales fall again in February

NEW YORK (AP) -- McDonald's says a monthly sales figure dipped again as it struggled with intensifying competition and challenging economic conditions around the world.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company said sales at established restaurants fell 1.5 percent in February. It noted that sales in February of last year benefited from an extra day because it was a leap year. When excluding the impact of that extra day, the company said sales rose 1.7 percent.

Still, McDonald's Corp. hadn't logged a monthly sales decline for nearly a decade until this past October. And the figure dropped in January as well, making February the third decline in just five months. The declines reflect the mounting pressures facing the world's biggest hamburger chain, which had managed to grow and pull away from its rivals through the Great Recession.

With Burger King and Wendy's revamping their menus and posing a greater threat, McDonald's has stepped up its focus on value and the introduction of limited-time offers to hold onto diners. But some analysts have questioned that strategy, saying a reliance on the Dollar Menu will only hurt profit margins.

Additionally, McDonald's is dealing with a rapidly changing fast-food industry, with diners flocking to chains such as Chipotle and Panera that offer food perceived to be of higher quality for slightly higher prices.

McDonald's said results in February were mixed around the world. In the U.S., the figure was down 3.3 percent, or flat when excluding the impact of the extra day. The company said results were boosted by its new limited-time Fish McBites and the addition of a Grilled Onion Cheddar burger to the Dollar Menu.

In Europe, the figure was down 0.5 percent or up 2.7 percent when factoring out the extra day from a year ago. McDonald's has been focusing on expanding its breakfast menu and restaurant hours throughout the region to boost results.

In the region including Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa the sales figure was down 1.6 percent, or up 1.5 percent when excluding the impact of the calendar shift. Although sales in China and Australia were positive, McDonald's continued to struggle in Japan, where sank 12 percent at restaurants open at least 13 months.

The figure is a key metric because it strips out the effects of newly opened and closed locations. The monthly sales figures are a snapshot of money spent on food at both company-owned and franchised restaurants and do not reflect corporate revenue.