McDonald's Bad Quarter, Coke's Tough One, and the Saving Grace of Housing Data

The three things you need to know on July 23.

Jul 22, 2014 at 11:00PM
Of course you know that it was just National Hammock Day. You boss may not be cool with your lounging with a margarita midday, but at least the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) wasn't slacking, as the index rose big Tuesday on corporate earnings and strong housing data.
1. McDonald's U.S. sales seriously suffering
The only thing big about the Big Mac is the frustrating ratio of too-much-bread to too-little-meat. That's just one of the many problems facing flailing fast-food legend McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), whose stock fell 1.3% Tuesday on a serving of disappointing earnings. About one-third of its sales come from the U.S., where sales dropped 1.5% last quarter.
Why is Ronald McDonald scaring away customers? An overwhelming menu. CEO Don Thompson told investors that he blames the absurd menu items released in 2013 as confusing customers and slowing down kitchen operations. So McD's plans to revamp its marketing and open a "Learning Lab" to better understand "what customers want." We'd like to apply as students.
The takeaway is that McDonald's food isn't being eaten, but the company's being devoured here and abroad. The fast-casual chain movement (we're lookin' at you, Chipotle) is taking up lunch-time market share in the United States. And while Wall Street expected a 0.7% increase in European sales last quarter, sales across the pond dropped 1%.

2. Coca-Cola's revenues flatter than an old bottle of Coke
Need a caffeine jolt? The world's biggest beverage company, Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), announced $2.6 billion in second-quarter earnings, down a smidge from last year. Both profits and revenue dipped as the mature company can't find growth from the soda drinkers out there. The stock dropped 3% Tuesday.
Every soccer pitch in Brazil was surrounded by Coke ads for the world's eyes to see, and the World Cup push boosted Coca-Cola's quarter, as soda volumes rebounded 2% globally from flatness. But other international factors hurt it -- volume vs. sales, for one. If you're counting how many cans of Coke products were bought (i.e., volumes), then there was 3% growth globally, driven by Asia and Africa. But the U.S. dollar strengthened compared with those random currencies used to buy Fanta in China. The key is what those international volumes translate to in U.S. dollars (i.e., sales), and this important figure sank by 1.4%.
The takeaway is that these results were therefore flat (again). There's some growth potential in developing countries, but the old-geezer economies of the USA and Europe are tired of chugging soda. Lack of growth has kept KO's stock price frozen in the past year while the S&P 500 has risen 17%.
3. Big rebound in the pace of housing sales
Raise the roof like a mid-'90s rapper, because housing data just topped expectations big time, according to the National Association of Realtors. Sales of existing homes rose 2.6% in June at a rate of 5.04 million homes sold annually, the fastest pace since October. The improvement is thanks to a high inventory of houses and prices that aren't rising too quickly.
The takeaway is that before you celebrate, keep in mind that this is still behind the sales pace from June of last year. Although the housing market improved throughout 2013, that brutal winter weather was a setback in 2014. Only in the past month did home sales turn around -- now Wall Street's focused on Thursday's "New Home Sales" report.

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Jack Kramer and Nick Martell have no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Coca-Cola, and McDonald's, owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and Chipotle Mexican Grill, and has options on Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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