Shares of the fast-food giant got a 2.7 percent pop this week on rumors that Carl Icahn may be in the stock. Options traders also have been gobbling up call options in the hopes of a higher stock price. Icahn rumors aside, though, McDonald's chronic underperformance and pristine balance sheet has some traders wondering if the Golden Arches could be the next great activist target.
"There's definitely a lot that can be improved at McDonald's," said Gina Sanchez, founder of Chantico Global. However, she sees two big challenges for McDonald's – the macroeconomic picture and a shift in consumer preferences.
(Watch: MCD goes higher: Trader)
"It's been suffering from a general slowdown in the economy," said Sanchez, a CNBC contributor. "It's happening across the industry. It's not just McDonald's. But they also have been suffering from changes in tastes. They're losing share to Chipotle, for example."
Those competitors have also been ahead of McDonald's by introducing such specialty items. Wendy's recently announced the addition of several pulled pork items on their menu. Burger King rolled out its "Chicken Big King" sandwich a few months ago.
"We haven't really seen anything coming out of McDonald's," Sanchez said. "They really need some creativity, and that creativity clearly isn't coming from management as of late."
That could provide an opportunity for an outsider to step in ahead, Sanchez believes. "They are a great platform and someone is going to make this a great stock," she said. "Right now it isn't there."
Activists aside, Ari Wald, head of technical analysis at Oppenheimer & Co., is not keen on McDonald's stock and thinks investors should take profits with the recent jump in the stock.
"We see it more as an opportunity to take some profits off that recent move rather than a meaningful turn in the stock," Wald said.
Wald notes that McDonald's shares have been trading in a range of roughly between $93 and $103 since early 2013. "It has underperformed a rising equity market," he said. "The long-term trends relative to the market suggest that can continue and that this is just an oversold pop. I think it still has to base relative to the market. it's an underperformer and I'd rather buy the S&P 500 here."
To see the full discussion on McDonald's, with Sanchez on the fundamentals and Wald on the technicals, watch the above video.