Diesel prices solidly above $4 mark

While continually rising gas prices remain the big headline for businesses, pizza operators can enjoy a bit of a relief in natural gas prices, as well as steady cheese and wheat prices. Also of note, Domino's shares jumped more than $5 after a positive earnings report last week.

Cheese

Average block cheese prices remained steady last week at $1.47 on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The previous week, prices also were $1.47.

Prices closed at $1.46 Monday, $1.47 Tuesday and $1.48 Wednesday through Friday.

Wheat

Wheat prices inched up 2 cents on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, averaging $8.07. Prices were $8.05 the previous week.

Wheat closed at $7.90 Monday, $8.02 Tuesday, $8.03 Wednesday, $8.14 Thursday and $8.27 Friday.

Gasoline and diesel fuel

Today's nationwide average for regular unleaded fuel is $3.76, another jump from $3.69 last week, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.

Prices a month ago were $3.47. Last year at this time, consumers were paying $3.50 at the pump.

Today's mid-range unleaded is $3.91, up from $3.84 last week, while today's premium unleaded price is $4.04, up from $3.97 last week.

Diesel fuel prices are averaging $4.08, an increase over $4.03 last week. The price of diesel fuel is up from $3.87 a month ago, and from $3.86 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

The return of warmer-than normal temperatures was likely the catalyst that caused natural gas prices to resume their multi-week downtrend. The Henry Hub price closed at $2.44 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) on Feb. 29, down 16 cents for the week.

At the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), the April 2012 natural gas contract fell 15.9 cents per MMBtu for the week to close at $2.616 per MMBtu.

Pizza company stocks

Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. closed last week at $66.65, up more than a dollar from $65.54 the previous week. The company hit a new 52-week high earlier last week at $66.65. A year ago, the company was trading as low as $47.15.

Domino's closed last Friday at $38.83, up more than $5 from $33.20 the previous week after turning in a solid earnings report and beating expectations. DPZ hit its 52-week high of $39.80 earlier in the week. Shares remain substantially higher over this time last year when the company traded at $15.80.

Papa John's closed last week at $37.03 last week, up from $36.87 the previous week. PZZA hit a new 52-week high in February 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 $37.99, a slight increase from $37.90 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.

Pizza Inn closed Friday at $4.71, up from $4.40 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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