updated 2/9/2010 9:06:07 AM ET 2010-02-09T14:06:07

McDonald's Inc., the world's largest fast-food chain, said Tuesday a key sales comparison rose 2.6 percent in January, as strong overseas sales more than offset a decline in the U.S.

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Sales in stores open at least 13 months fell 0.7 percent in the U.S. and rose 4.3 percent in Europe, Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa.

The figure is considered a key indicator of a restaurant chain's health because it excludes the effects of new restaurants and restaurant closings.

Total sales rose 9.1 percent, including an 0.1 percent decline in the U.S., a 6.7 percent rise in Europe and a 7.2 percent increase in the rest of the world.

McDonald's has generally fared well in the recession as customers turned to it for cheap meals, but it has started to feel the pinch more acutely in recent months. It has still outperformed most of its competitors, who've increasingly been pushing value menus and discounts of their own.

McDonald's said in the U.S its breakfast Dollar Menu and portable Mac Snack Wrap were popular offerings and its free Wi-Fi was also a draw.

In Europe, sales were stronger in France and the U.K. and weaker in Germany. Elsewhere in the world, Japan and Australia sales were strong but China was weaker due to the timing of the Chinese New Year.

McDonald's, based in Oak Brook, Ill., also said it will take a $40 million to $50 million tax charge in the first half related to closing 430 restaurants in Japan.

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