Sales at restaurants open at least 13 months fell 0.7 percent in the United States, while those in Europe and in the Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) region both rose 4.3 percent, McDonald's said on Tuesday.
Analysts were expecting a 1.4 percent overall rise in same-store sales for January. Europe and APMEA each topped Wall Street expectations, while the U.S. fell short of the flat January same-store sales result analysts' had expected, Bernstein Research analyst Sara Senatore said in a client note.
Earlier this month, McDonald's Chief Executive Jim Skinner said U.S. same-store sales would be flat to slightly down for January due to severe winter weather. He added that bad weather days saw a sales drag of about 3 percent.
Despite the weather-affected January lull, Skinner said the December increase in U.S. same-store sales was a sustainable result in the longer term. Just a few weeks ago, McDonald's surprised analysts by announcing a 1 percent increase in December U.S. same-store sales after two months of declines.
McDonald's executives previously said that U.S. sales benefited from the January national debuts of the breakfast Dollar Menu and the Mac Snack Wrap -- a new spin on its popular Big Mac hamburger that sells for around $1.50 -- as well as McCafe coffee drinks and the premium-priced Angus Burger.
The company said on Tuesday that Europe's gain was fueled by France, United Kingdom and other markets, offset partly by Germany. The Asia/Pacific region was boosted by demand in Japan and Australia, partly offset by what it called difficult comparison in China.
For the early part of the U.S. recession, McDonald's and some other fast-food chains benefited when the global economic downturn sent customers to lower-priced fare.
But that so-called trade-down effect is no longer strong enough to offset weaker spending by young men and minority groups, who account for a large number of fast-food customers and have unemployment rates much higher than the overall U.S. jobless rate of 9.7 percent.
Nevertheless, McDonald's said on Tuesday that its U.S. results still outperformed those of its fast-food rivals.
McDonald's reported a 0.1 percent rise in U.S. same-store sales for the recent fourth quarter.
Rival Burger King said earlier this month said same-store sales for the United States and Canada fell 3.3 percent during its quarter ended December 31.
Yum Brands Inc , the parent of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, posted an 8 percent drop in U.S. same-store sales in its latest quarter ended December 26.
McDonald's shares were up 22 cents to $63.15 in midday trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Reporting by Ben Klayman, Brad Dorfman and Lisa Baertlein, editing by Dave Zimmerman and Derek Caney)