McDonald's Corp said global sales at established restaurants in February rose 3.9 percent, as strong sales in Europe helped offset a U.S. market that was hit by high unemployment and rising gasoline prices.
February sales at restaurants open at least 13 months were up 2.7 percent in the United States, helped by strong demand for its McCafe beverages, the fast-food hamburger chain said.
But Wall Street analysts on average were expecting a 3.6 percent increase in the United States, and McDonald's shares were down 13 cents, or 0.2 percent, from Monday's close of $76.29.
Oppenheimer analyst Matthew DiFrisco said he expected U.S. same-restaurant sales to be up 2.9 percent and noted that high unemployment and rising fuel prices were affecting sales in the United States and would remain a concern.
It's a recovery, but it's a slower recovery than what was anticipated, DiFrisco said.
Sales in the United States account for 35 percent of overall revenue.
Spiking costs for gasoline and groceries threatens to cut into consumer spending around the world. At the same time, restaurant operators are also grappling with higher prices for ingredients such as beef, cheese, bread and cooking oil.
In Europe, which contributes about 40 percent of revenue, McDonald's is more of a middle-class draw, DiFrisco said, making restaurant-goers there a bit less sensitive to rising gasoline than their U.S. counterpart.
Investors for months have worried that austerity measures would cut into spending in Europe, but same-restaurant sales in that region were up 5.1 percent, a second consecutive month of strong sales gains after a decline in December.
Same-restaurant sales rose 4 percent In McDonald's Asia-Pacific unit, with gains dampened slightly by the effect of currency translation.
Janney Capital Markets analyst Mark Kalinowski said he expected February sales to rise 3.6 percent in the United States and 4 percent in each of the Europe and Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) regions.
(Reporting by Phil Wahba and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles, editing by Dave Zimmerman and Maureen Bavdek)