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got a boost Thursday morning from expectations for good July sales numbers.

The fast-food giant will release sales numbers after the close on Thursday. In the meantime, Salomon Smith Barney came out with a survey of 29 McDonald's franchisees with about 160 restaurants. The franchisee research found that same-store sales rose 10.3% in aggregate in July.

"The stock could trade well over the next two sessions, based on what we believe will be favorable July U.S. sales numbers released shortly," said Mark Kalinowski, an analyst at Salomon Smith Barney. Salomon Smith Barney has had a banking relationship with McDonald's in the past 12 months.

McDonald's was up 1% at $22.03 in morning trading. It has gained 48% since late January, when the burger chain reported its first-ever quarterly loss. The company said sales rose 7% in June.

For his part, Kalinowski doubled his sales comp estimate to 8% from 4% for July. He also raised his third-quarter earnings estimate by a cent to 39 cents a share, 1 cent above estimates, according to Thomson Financial. And he lifted his 2003 earnings estimate by a cent to $1.34, in line with expectations.

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The analyst didn't upgrade the stock, however. "Despite what we believe will be good near-term flow regarding U.S. sales trends, one barrier to an upgrade remains U.S. service levels, of which there seems to be little evidence of improvement," said Kalinowski, who rates McDonald's an in-line or hold.

Service problems aside, Kalinowski is among analysts who suggest that McDonald's sales gains are its competitors' losses. "By a wide margin, the franchisees we've communicated with suggest that privately held

Burger King




bear the brunt of the Golden Arches' resurgence," he said.

Earlier in the week, Wendy's said that same-store sales were down 2.1% to 2.3% in July.