Wheat prices close under $8

While continually rising gas prices remain the big headline for businesses, pizza operators can enjoy a bit of a relief in wheat and natural gas prices. Also, cheese has remained steady for about a month.

Cheese

Average block cheese prices dropped a penny last week to $1.47 on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, from $1.48 the previous week.

Prices closed at $1.48 Tuesday and Wednesday, and $1.46 Thursday and Friday. The markets were closed on Monday due to President's Day.

Wheat

Wheat prices dropped a dime last week to $8.05 on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, from $8.15 the previous week.

Wheat closed at $8.16 Tuesday, $8.18 Wednesday, $8.01 Thursday and $7.86 Friday.

Gasoline and diesel fuel

Today's nationwide average for regular unleaded fuel is $3.69, a big spike from $3.56 last week, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.

Prices a month ago were $3.40. Last year at this time, consumers were paying $3.35 at the pump.

Today's mid-range unleaded is $3.84, from $3.70 last week, while today's premium unleaded price is $3.97, from $3.83 last week.

Diesel fuel prices are averaging $4.03, from $3.95 last week. The price of diesel fuel is up from $3.86 a month ago, and from $3.69 a year ago.

Oil prices are at a nine-month high after Iran cut supply to Europe in a dispute over its non-transparent nuclear program. Last month, analysts predicted that gas prices could reach $4 a gallon by spring, citing production issues and ongoing tumult in foreign markets.

Natural gas

Spot prices at most trading locations across the country posted only small changes for the report week. Spot price changes were mixed, with prices at most locations rising or falling by less than 10 cents. The Henry Hub spot price posted a net increase of 6 cents, rising from $2.54 per million British thermal unit (MMBtu) last Wednesday, Feb. 15, to $2.60 per MMBtu Feb. 21.

At the New York Mercantile Exchange, the near-month (March 2012) contract rose from $2.425 per MMBtu Feb. 15 to $2.643 Feb. 21. Natural gas continues to trade near a 10-year low because of abundance. The recently released 2011 report shows a 9 percent drop in the Henry Hub natural gas spot prices from the prior year.

Pizza company stocks

Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. closed last week at $65.54, up more than a quarter from $65.25 the previous week. The company hit a new 52-week high earlier this month, at $65.79 after a strong earnings report. A year ago, the company was trading as low as $47.15.

Domino's closed last Friday at $33.20, up a bit from $32.97 the previous week. DPZ hit its 52-week high of $34.90 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 $36.87, a big drop from $40.37 the previous week. PZZA hit a new 52-week high earlier this month at $40.57. The company hit its 52-week low a year ago when it traded at $26.95. Earlier last week, Papa John's reported results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year, which included a 5.2 percent comparable sales jump, boosted by international growth.

CEC Entertainment Inc., parent company of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, closed out last week at $37.90, a slight drop from $38.17 the previous week. CEC hit its 52-week low of $25.83 in September. The company hit its 52-week high of $42.75 in July. CEC Entertainment Inc.'s financial results were reported Friday, including a decrease in total revenues by 2.3 percent and comparable store sales by 3.6 percent.

Pizza Inn closed Friday at $4.40, down from $4.56 the previous week. PZZI hit its 52-week high of $7.07 in December and traded as low as $1.91 a year ago.

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