CHICAGO -- Block cheese prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange hit their lowest levels in nearly two years last week, averaging slightly above $1.40 per pound for the trading week ended Dec. 19, off 29 cents from the previous week.   Block cheese prices closed at slightly above $1.49 per pound Monday, slightly above $1.44 Tuesday, slightly under $1.42 per pound Wednesday, slightly above $1.34 per pound Thursday and slightly above $1.30 per pound Friday.
 
Prices are down 61 cents, or 30 percent, compared with this time last year, when block cheese averaged just above $2.01 per pound.   Wheat   Wheat for December delivery closed at just above $6.25 per bushel Friday on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. Prices had closed at $5.89 per bushel Monday, just above $6.07 per bushel Tuesday, $6.19 per bushel Wednesday and slightly above $6.31 per bushel on Thursday.
 
Gasoline and diesel fuel   The nationwide average for regular unleaded gasoline was $1.63 per gallon Dec. 22, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service, off 3 cents from $1.66 per gallon this time last week.   Prices are off 16 percent from an average of $1.95 per gallon a month ago and off 45 percent from an average of $2.97 per gallon this time last year. Mid-range unleaded averaged $1.77 per gallon, while premium unleaded stood at $1.83 per gallon.   The nationwide average price for diesel fuel stood at $2.59 per gallon Dec. 22, off 5 cents from $2.54 per gallon last week. Diesel prices are off 24 percent from an average of $3.41 per gallon this time last year.   Natural gas
 
The coldest temperatures of the season to date covered much of the northern half of the country this report week, boosting demand on both coasts and across the Northern Plains and Midwest population centers. Prices increased throughout the country outside the Northeast, with the biggest increases occurring for supplies from the Rocky Mountains, particularly for delivery into the Northwest.
 
During the report week, the Henry Hub spot price increased 11 cents per million Btu to $5.79, from $5.68 per MMBtu this time last week.   Prices in the Northeast fell to $6.82 per MMBtu for the reporting period ended Dec. 17, off 14 cents from $6.94 on Dec. 10.

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