Gas prices up 30 cents from last year

While continually rising gas prices remain the big headline for businesses, cheese and wheat prices also inched up last week. Pizza operators, however, can enjoy a bit of a relief in natural gas prices. Also, Yum! Brands a hit new 52-week high last week.

Cheese

Average block cheese prices jumped 6 cents last week to $1.53 on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Prices have been at $1.47 for the previous three weeks.

Prices closed at $1.49 Monday, $1.50 Tuesday and Wednesday and $1.58 Thursday and Friday.

Wheat

Wheat prices jumped to $8.13 on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, from $8.09 the previous week.

Wheat closed at $10 Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, $8.20 Thursday and $8.17 Friday.

Gasoline and diesel fuel

Today's nationwide average for regular unleaded fuel is $3.84, another jump from $3.80 last week, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.

Prices a month ago were $3.53. Last year at this time, consumers were paying $3.54 at the pump.

Today's mid-range unleaded is $3.98, from $3.95 last week, while today's premium unleaded price is $4.11, from $4.08 last week.

Diesel fuel prices are averaging $4.13, from $4.11 last week. The price of diesel fuel is up from $3.94 a month ago, and from $3.93 a year ago.

Oil prices are at a 10-month high amid tensions with Iran, causing a disruption in supplies. The improving economy has also boosted oil prices. Analysts have predicted that gas prices could reach $4 a gallon by spring, citing production issues and ongoing tumult in foreign markets.

Natural gas

Persistent warmer-than-normal temperatures throughout the report week contributed to the lengthening downward trend in natural gas prices across much of the country. The Henry Hub price closed at $2.13 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) on March 14, down 11 cents for the week.

At the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), the April 2012 natural gas contract fell 1.8 cents per MMBtu for the week to close at $2.284 per MMBtu.

Pizza company stocks

Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. closed last week at $68.40, up from $67.58 the previous week. The company hit 52-week highs throughout the week, eventually reaching $68.94. The company's shares were likely buoyed by a new product launch at Taco Bell, as well as plans to expand in India. A year ago, the company was trading as low as $47.15.

Domino's closed last Friday at $39.96, down slightly from $40.28 the previous week. DPZ hit a new 52-week high earlier in the week at $40.36. Shares remain substantially higher over this time last year when the company traded at $15.80.

Papa John's closed last week at $37.16, down from $37.37 the previous week. PZZA hit a new 52-week high last month at $40.82. 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 $38.11, up from $37.89 the week prior. 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 $4.61, from $4.82 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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