McDonald's is the standard bearer in the fast food business, with more than 33,500 locations spread across 119 countries. Rewind market conditions back a few years, and this stock was one of the very few that actually managed to increase in price in 2008, a feat that MCD pulled off by being at the lower end of the dining market. This firm should continue to benefit as U.S. consumers trade down and a burgeoning middle class in emerging markets decides to trade up to Big Macs and McFlurries.>>5 Big Stocks Ready to Slingshot Higher Even though rivals like Yum Brands (YUM) have rightfully gotten a lot of credit for capturing the Chinese fast food market, McDonald's is still the undisputed king of the international segment. Here at home, the firm earned mindshare from consumers by upgrading stores with features like Wi-Fi and refreshed interiors and upgrading menus with healthier and premium options. Scale is a serious advantage for McDonald's, as it can leverage its massive network to get favorable pricing on everything from food to new locations. While many investors don't realize it, McDonald's actually owns the land underneath franchised store locations, generating bigger royalty streams from each location than rival quick service restaurant chains. That goes a long way in paying off shareholders. The firm returned more that $6 billion to shareholders last year, thanks in large part to a 3.1% dividend yield right now. MCD is another solid core holding, especially while investors remain as anxious about owning stocks as they are now.