Cheese prices fall nearly 10 cents

While continually rising gas prices remain the big headline for businesses, wheat prices also inched up last week. However, operators can enjoy a bit of relief in cheese and natural gas prices. Yum! Brands stocks continue to be on a roll.

Cheese

Average block cheese prices dropped to $1.49 last week on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, from $1.58 the week prior.

Prices closed at $1.49 Monday through Friday.

Wheat

Wheat prices jumped a nickel last week on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange to $8.10, up from $8.05 the previous week.

Wheat prices closed at $8.22 Monday, $8.06 Tuesday, $7.97 Wednesday, $7.88 Thursday and $8.10 Friday.

Gasoline and diesel fuel

Today's nationwide average for regular unleaded fuel is $3.92, another jump from $3.89 last week, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.

Prices a month ago were $3.75. Last year at this time, consumers were paying $3.64 at the pump.

Today's mid-range unleaded is $4.06, up slightly from $4.04 last week, while today's premium unleaded price is $4.19, up from $4.17 last week.

Diesel fuel prices are averaging $4.16, up from $4.15 last week. The price of diesel fuel has risen from $4.07 a month ago, and from $3.97 a year ago.

Oil prices are at a 10-month high amid tensions with Iran, causing a disruption in supplies. The improving economy also has boosted oil prices. Gas prices have reached $4 a gallon in many markets, attributable to production issues and ongoing tumult in foreign markets.

Natural gas

Reflecting record-warm March temperatures for most of the week, natural gas prices declined at most trading points across the country. Colder weather early this week temporarily reversed the trend, with prices increasing across the country on March 26, many by over 10 cents. The Henry Hub spot price closed the report week at $2.04 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) March 27, down 17 cents for the week.

At the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), the April 2012 natural gas contract began the week at a high of $2.360 per MMBtu and closed the week down 16.9 cents yesterday at $2.191 per MMBtu.

Pizza company stocks

Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. closed last week at $71.18, up again from $70.64. The company hit another 52-week high earlier in the week at $71.79 backed by strong growth in China. A year ago, the company was trading as low as $47.15.

Domino's closed last Friday at $36.30, up from $36.25 the week before. DPZ hit its 52-week high two weeks ago at $42.21 after announcing a special $3 dividend to shareholders. Shares remain substantially higher over this time last year when the company traded at $17.69.

Papa John's closed last week at $37.66, up from $37.18 the previous Friday. PZZA hit its 52-week high in February 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 $37.91, down from $38.42 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 2011.

Pizza Inn closed Friday at $4.82, down a penny from $4.83 the previous week. PZZI hit its 52-week high of $7.07 in December and traded as low as $1.97 a year ago.

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