Tale of the Tape: Why McDonald’s Is a Top Stock in 2017

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) has been on an absolute tear in 2017, hitting all-time highs and continuing the longest bull market in recent history. Currently the average is up roughly 13% year to date, and there seems to be more room to run.

McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) has been at the forefront of the index as one of the top five performing Dow stocks this year, up about 31% in this time. The next best stock in the index comes in roughly nine percentage points lower than McDonald’s, denoting a clear elite within the index.

The stock started the year out around $120 and since then has seen steady growth with no real pullbacks in the shares. McDonald’s really started building momentum back in 2015 — after a few years of stagnation — when the company launched its all-day breakfast promotion.

Even in its most recent earnings report, the Golden Arches has seen incredible progress with global comparable sales up over 6%. While the company may be doing better than it has in some time, one ongoing problem for McDonald’s is the perception of its customer service.

Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s president and CEO, said early in the year:

There’s a sense of urgency across the business as we take actions to retain existing customers, regain lapsed customers and convert casual customers to committed customers. We’re continuing to build a more personalized and enjoyable visit, which delights customers with the taste and quality of our food and offers the highest level of convenience, in order to gain traffic in an increasingly competitive industry and deliver profitable growth for our System and shareholders.

However, despite this commitment to customers, there have been ongoing labor disputes in house. Not to mention, McDonald’s has been moving toward automating the ordering process at its restaurants, which may not be personal but it does help out the bottom line.

Overall, strong comparable sales and earnings reports, as well as bullish analyst calls, have propelled McDonald’s higher in 2017. Although there may be some issues on the fringe, these strong fundamentals have easily outweighed them.

Investors should be wary after a rally like this because the stock is currently trading at a premium of nearly 23 times next year’s earnings.

The stock has a consensus analyst price target of $171.21, which implies an upside of 7.7% from Thursday’s closing price of $159.03. Analysts set their targets all around the consensus, and a few of the most recent were as follows:

  • Credit Suisse has a Buy rating with a $170 price target.
  • Sanford Bernstein has a Buy rating and a $180 price target.
  • Mizuho has a Buy rating with a $173 price target.
  • RBC has a Buy rating with a $175 price target.
  • Robert Baird has a Buy rating with a $170 price target.
  • Merrill Lynch has a Buy rating and a $175 price target.

Shares of the Golden Arches were last seen at $159.35, within a 52-week trading range of $110.33 to $161.72.