McDonald's Beats Expecations, Upbeat for 2010

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McDMcDonald's Corp. (MCD) today reported better-than-expected fourth quarter results, underscoring the continued resilience of the world's largest restaurant chain amidst the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Net income at the Oakbrook, Illinois-based firm was $1.22 billion or $1.11 per share. Revenue rose 7% percent to $5.97 billion, fueled by gains in every geographic region and strong sales of new menu items such as coffee drinks and the Angus Third Pounder. Excluding one-time items, profit was $1.03.Analysts expected earnings of $1.02 per share, on revenues of $5.94 billion. Results include an eight cent per share benefit primarily due to the resolution of certain liabilities retained in connection with a 2007 Latin America developmental license transaction.

Shares are up 7% over the past year, underperforming the broader market, as investors fretted over a 0.6% decline in November same-store sales, a figure the home of the Golden Arches called "among the best in the industry." In the quarterly report, the strength of its overseas business off-set a slowdown in the U.S. Wall Street liked what it heard, sending shares up in pre-market action.

In the earnings press release, CEO Jim Skinner sounded an upbeat note saying, "As we begin 2010, McDonald's January global comparable sales trend remains positive." He was not more specific.

McDonald's is a bellwether stock for investors looking tor insights into consumer behavior. The theory has been that the company benefits when consumers feel pinched economically but still want to eat meals outside the home. Unfortunately, with unemployment in double-digits, people are continuing to feel stressed financially. This will continue to put pressure on McDonald's bottom line for some time to come.
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