Pizza stocks lifted by stronger market

Cheese

Average block cheese prices dropped a penny to $1.49 last week on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Cheese averaged $1.50 the previous week.

Prices closed at $1.51 Monday and Tuesday, $1.49 Wednesday, and $1.48 Thursday and Friday.

Wheat

Wheat prices jumped to $8.31 last week on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, from $8.14 the previous week.

Wheat closed at $8.19 Monday, $8.27 Tuesday, $8.36 Wednesday and Thursday, and $8.38 Friday.

Gasoline and diesel fuel

Today's nationwide average for regular unleaded fuel is $3.48, a 5-cent increase from $3.43 last week, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.

Prices a month ago were $3.36. Last year at this time, consumers were paying $3.12 at the pump.

Today's mid-range unleaded is $3.61, up from $3.56 last week, while today's premium unleaded price is $3.74, up from $3.70 last week.

Diesel fuel prices are averaging $3.88, a penny increase from $3.87 last week. The price of diesel fuel is up from $3.85 a month ago, and from $3.49 a year ago.

Last month, analysts predicted that gas prices could reach $4 a gallon by spring, citing production issues and tumult in foreign markets.

Natural gas

Natural gas prices posted net declines during the report week, as patterns of unseasonably warm weather continued across much of the country. The Henry Hub spot price dropped from $2.61 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) Jan. 25 to $2.32 per MMBtu Jan. 31.

At the New York Mercantile Exchange, the March 2012 contract moved into the near-month position. The contract dropped from $2.769 per MMBtu Jan. 25 to $2.382 per MMBtu Jan. 31.

Natural gas continues to trade near a 10-year low because of abundance. The 2011 report was just released, showing a 9 percent drop in the Henry Hub natural gas spot prices from the prior year.

Pizza company stocks

Last week, stocks finished at their highest level since 2008, before the financial crisis. Many pizza stocks reflected the positive news.

Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. closed last week at $63.78, up from $62.85 the previous week. The company hit a new 52-week high earlier in the day, at $64.75. A year ago, the company was trading as low as $47.15.

Domino's closed last Friday at $32.93, from $32.31 the previous week. DPZ hit its 52-week high of $35.00 in mid-December. Shares remain substantially higher over this time last year when the company traded at $15.80.

Papa John's closed last week at $39.52, up from $39.01 the previous week. PZZA hit a new 52-week high earlier in the day at $40.57. The company hit its 52-week low a year ago when it traded at $26.95.

CEC Entertainment Inc., parent company of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, closed out last week at $36.29, from $35.60 the prior week. 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 closed Friday at $5.55, down slightly from $5.63 the previous week. PZZI hit its 52-week high of $6.60 in early December and traded as low as $1.86 a year ago.

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