Where Will McDonald’s Go Next?

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With shares of McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) trading around $98, is MCD an OUTPERFORM, WAIT AND SEE, or STAY AWAY? Let’s analyze the stock with the relevant sections of our CHEAT SHEET investing framework:

T = Trends for a Stock’s Movement

McDonald’s franchises and operates McDonald’s restaurants in the United States, Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, Canada, and Latin America — so just about every part of the world. Its restaurants offer various food items, soft drinks, coffee, and other beverages, as well as breakfast menus. The products provided by McDonald’s fulfill cravings at competitive prices in convenient locations worldwide. The McDonald’s craze shows no signs of slowing, so the company has continued its expansion to just about every nation on the globe. As consumers continue to enjoy McDonald’s products, look for it to see rising profits.

Starting today, McDonald’s will be giving away free small cups of coffee through April 13. Now, the question on many analysts’ minds is: Why? This is the first time the chain has ever hosted a free coffee “event,” and some suspect CEO Don Thompson is throwing out the freebies in order to keep his customers away from Taco Bell’s (NYSE:YUM) new breakfast menu; others say this is McDonald’s preparation for testing its McCafé coffee at retail. Burger Business reports that the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company typically hands out free coffee on National Coffee Day, September 28, but other than that, it has always charged its customers for the caffeine. Considering McDonald’s is the world’s largest fast food chain, there was never a real need to give away its food or drinks for free if customers would gladly pay money for them. Since the chain is all of a sudden willing to give out coffee handouts for two whole weeks, it has some suspicious consumers, analysts, and investors on its hands.

It’s no doubt a good strategy, as the freebies are expected to boost traffic in stores, but the impetus behind the move is still in question. One popular hypothesis published by USA Today on Saturday is that McDonald’s is simply trying to get an edge on its new competition from Taco Bell as the latter launches into the $50 billion fast food breakfast market. As of Friday, Taco Bell now has a new breakfast menu, and unlike McDonald’s conventional breakfast sandwiches and hash browns, it includes items like Waffle Tacos and sugary Cinnabon Delights.

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