Cold weather, snow push natural gas prices up

Cheese

Average block cheese prices remained steady at $1.72 on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange last week. The previous week's average was also $1.72.

Cheese prices closed at $1.73 Monday, $1.69 Tuesday, $1.72 Wednesday and Thursday, and $1.77 Friday.

Wheat

Wheat prices rose slightly last week on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, averaging $9.17, up from $9.09 the previous week.

Prices remain down from a month ago and are expected to stay lower after a recent USDA report released predicted bigger surpluses.

Wheat closed at $9.17 Monday, $9.16 Tuesday, $9.10 Wednesday, $9.23 Thursday and $9.20 Friday.

Gasoline and diesel fuel

Today's nationwide average for regular unleaded fuel is $3.44, down a penny from $3.45 last week, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.

Prices are relatively stable from $3.43 a month ago, but are up significantly from this time last year, when consumers were paying $2.80 at the pump.

Mid-range unleaded is $3.58, down a penny from $3.59 last week, while today's premium unleaded price is $3.71, from $3.72 last week.

The nationwide average for diesel fuel is up to $3.88, a rise from $3.85 last week. The price of diesel fuel is also up from last month's $3.83, and from this time last year when it cost $3.09.

Natural gas

The weatherman's promise for chillier temperatures later this week and mention of the word "snow" in some forecasts was the likely catalyst propelling prices upward this week. In an environment of generally supportive market fundamentals, the Henry Hub price closed up 7 cents for the week to $3.65 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) on Oct. 26.

Pizza company stocks

After a couple of weeks of uncertainty, the stock market continued to rally last week upon news of a European debt deal.

Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. closed last week at $54.14, up from $53.74 the previous week and $52.14 two weeks ago. The company hit its 52-week high in August when shares were $56.72. Yum! traded as low as $46.40 in January.

Domino's closed last Friday at $32.15, down slightly from $32.25 the previous week, which was the company's 52-week high. Just two weeks ago, the company closed at $28.32. Shares remain substantially higher over this time last year when the company traded at $13.09 in October 2010.

Papa John's closed Friday up to $34.17, from $33.92 the previous week. The company hit its 52-week high last Thursday, when it traded at $34.81. PZZA's 52-week low was last October, at $25.49.

CEC Entertainment Inc., parent company of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, closed out last week at $33.32, up big from $30.67 the previous Friday. CEC hit its 52-week low of $27.42 in September. The company hit its 52-week high of $41.75 in July.

Pizza Inn finished at $4.55 last week, down from $4.90 the previous Friday, which was the company's new 52-week high. This number came shortly after the company announced its expansion plans into the hot China market. PZZI traded as low as $1.83 in October 2010.

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