May 8, 2012 / 12:12 PM / in 5 years

McDonald's April comparable sales miss estimates

(Reuters) - McDonald’s Corp (MCD.N) reported a smaller-than-expected rise in April sales at established restaurants across the globe, which were held back by a disappointing increase in its U.S. business.

A worker drills a hole underneath the McDonald's brand sign at a store of the global fast food chain in Berlin February 15, 2012. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Same-restaurant sales in the United States rose 3.3 percent, while analysts expected a gain of roughly 5 percent.

The lackluster growth in U.S. sales may have come from McDonald’s emphasizing more expensive items such as 20-piece Chicken McNuggets at a time patrons are still very sensitive to the state of the economy and drawn to the most affordable items, one analyst said.

Wall Street may have gotten ahead of itself in terms of expectations because of McDonald’s stellar gains in recent months, one analyst said.

“The momentum they’ve had has been very strong,” Steve West, a director at Investment Technology Group, told Reuters.

McDonald’s shares fell 2.3 percent in premarket trade.

While McDonald’s is outperforming most of its peers, it also is sensitive to financial belt-tightening in Europe and higher food and labor costs in the United States.

Despite national debt woes, widespread austerity measures and high unemployment in Europe that have threatened demand in its top market, McDonald’s same-restaurant sales there rose 3.5 percent, above analysts’ forecasts of a gain of just over 3 percent.

In Asia, April sales at restaurants open at least 13 months rose 1.1 percent, below analysts’ estimates, hurt by a drop in Japan.

Globally, the world’s biggest hamburger chain said on Tuesday that sales at restaurants open at least 13 months rose 3.3 percent globally.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were looking for a worldwide sales gain of 4 percent, while those polled by Consensus Metrix had expected a gain of 4.3 percent.

Reporting By Phil Wahba in New York and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; editing by John Wallace, Dave Zimmerman and Alden Bentley

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