updated 10/19/2004 9:10:36 AM ET 2004-10-19T13:10:36

McDonald’s Corp. rode strong U.S. sales to a 38 percent increase in third-quarter earnings, its fifth straight quarter of increased profits since snapping out of a slump last year.

Net earnings reported Tuesday for the three months ended Sept. 30 were $778 million, or 61 cents a share, up from $547 million, or 43 cents a share, for the same quarter in 2003. That matched the estimate it issued last Wednesday in disclosing that results would be better than Wall Street expected.

Revenues were up 9 percent to $4.9 billion from $4.5 billion a year earlier.

Since ending a protracted stretch of sluggish results in the crowded fast-food industry, the Oak Brook, Ill.-based chain has had six consecutive quarterly increases in same-store sales — restaurants open 13 months or more — among its 13,000-plus U.S. outlets.

CEO Charlie Bell attributed the momentum to McDonald’s focus on better food and service, new menu items, longer restaurant hours and the recently added option for U.S. customers to pay for their meals with credit or debit cards.

For the first nine months, net income was $1.88 billion, or $1.48 per share, up from $1.05 billion, or $1.05 per share, a year earlier. Revenues jumped 12 percent to $14.1 billion from $12.6 billion.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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