Cash-strapped consumers might now be finding budget-priced Big Macs a more appealing meal. Despite the menu of macroeconomic concerns that have dragged down many retailers, including some restaurant chains, McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) held up well in its second-quarter earnings results.

Second-quarter earnings at McDonald's rose 57% to $834.1 million, or $0.67 per share. It's worthwhile to note, however, that the profit included a $0.10-per-share boost related to McDonalds' partial spinoff of Chipotle (NYSE:CMG) and charges of $0.02 per share. Without those effects, McDonald's earned $0.59 per share, which just squeaked by analyts' expectations for $0.58 per share.

Total sales increased a formidable 9% to $5.57 billion, and same-store sales increased 5.5%. Europe has been a trouble spot for McDonald's, but this quarter European comps increased 6.3%, boosted by promotions related to the wildly popular World Cup.

It's an improved picture from last quarter, when McDonalds' profit fell, Europe was still a major sticking point, and the company admitted its disappointment with the less-than-expected decrease in share count related to its share buybacks. Furthermore, last time around, Pershing Capital Management's agitation for change was still fresh in everybody's minds; the same hedge fund had encouraged Wendy's (NYSE:WEN) to spin off Tim Hortons (NYSE:THI).

McDonald's plans to spin off the rest of its Chipotle shares by October so that it can put its focus back on burgers (and use the proceeds to buy back more shares, sweetening the deal for investors). The company said it plans to return $5 billion to $6 billion to shareholders through buybacks and dividends this year and next.

There's a lot for investors to like about the Golden Arches -- it's arguably the leader in the fast-food industry, which also includes rivals like Wendy's, several fast-food purveyors under the Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM) umbrella, and Burger King (NYSE:BKC). McDonald's turnaround has been impressive, and there's a good argument that even with pesky macroeconomic concerns at work, cheap fast food will appeal to customers on the run -- especially consumers who don't feel too flush with cash. Meanwhile, I've never understood why Wendy's has long traded at a premium to McDonald's on a P/E basis (31 for Wendy's versus 18 for McDonald's). What gives? Then there's Burger King, with a P/E of 56. Talk about a whopper!

McDonald's second-quarter earnings picture looks a little less impressive when you back out the one-time gains. It's nice to see that certain elements -- like its European operations -- seem to be ironing themselves out, but its second-quarter profitability wasn't quite the barn-burner that it might initially seem. On the other hand, many of the positive elements of the second-quarter report suggest that McDonald's is doing well in light of economic uncertainty, going strong overseas, and still has many attractive attributes for shareholders who are in it for the long haul. Maybe there is gold in those Golden Arches.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.