CHICAGO (AP) – McDonald’s Corp. said Thursday that stronger-than-expected September sales pushed preliminary third-quarter profit well above Wall Street estimates, backed by a comeback in Europe and accelerated U.S. momentum that have its two biggest markets surging.

The upside surprise from the world’s largest fast-food chain prompted several analysts to upgrade its stock. McDonald’s shares jumped to the latest in a series of six-year highs, leading the Dow Jones industrial average into record territory.

Shares in the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company rose 98 cents, or 2.4 percent, to close at $42.23 on the New York Stock Exchange after reaching $42.46, their highest price since Jan. 20, 2000.

McDonald’s forecast third-quarter earnings of 68 cents per share, well above the 63-cent consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial and up 17 percent from a year ago. That includes a penny-per-share expense relating to impairment and other charges primarily in its Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa operation.