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McDonald's franchisees optimistic about sales growth

Things are looking up for McDonald's. Franchisees of the chain are feeling optimistic after a spell of declining sales over the last year.

McDonald's could be headed for its best quarterly U.S. same-store sales performance in the last 15 quarters, according to Nomura restaurant analyst Mark Kalinowski.

A survey of some 26 franchisees, who collectively own and operate 209 McDonald's restaurants in the United States, revealed not only a positive outlook for the fourth quarter, but the first quarter of 2016 as well.

Kalinowski raised his fourth-quarter same-store sales estimate to 4.1 percent, well above the average Wall Street forecast. Same-store sales for the first quarter are expected to increase 3.8 percent, he said, also well above consensus.

Stores in the Northeast reported the biggest spike in same-store sales, rising 5.6 percent.

The turnaround is fairly pronounced: In July, franchisee sentiment was at an all-time low, Kalinowski said.

Despite this positive outlook, Nomura did not alter its earning estimates for McDonald's. However, the company did name the Golden Arches its top large-cap restaurant-stock pick for 2016 due to its dramatically improved outlook.