Crude oil on the rise, pushing gas prices up

The commodities markets continue to be in the spotlight as the U.S. navigates its largest drought since the 1950s. The effects of the extreme weather conditions will likely lead to higher food costs sooner than later. Of particular concern is the corn harvest, which will spike the cost of beef, pork, poultry and dairy.

However, after jumping past $10 last week – up more than $2.50 since early June – wheat prices have tempered a bit. Cheese remains stable, while gas and natural gas prices are inching up.

Cheese

Average block cheese prices were stable at $1.71 last week on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, matching the week prior.

Cheese prices closed at $1.71 Monday through Thursday, and finished the week out at $1.70.

Wheat

Wheat prices fell to $9.80 last week on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, from $10.03 the week prior. Wheat averaged $7.49 in early June.

Wheat closed at $10.05 Monday, $9.68 Tuesday, $9.89 Wednesday, $9.67 Thursday and $9.72 Friday.

Gasoline and diesel fuel

According to the latest Lundberg Survey, crude oil prices jumped nearly $3 a barrel within the past two weeks, bringing gasoline prices with it. However, a period of stability is expected.

Today's nationwide average for regular unleaded fuel is $3.48, up a penny from $3.47 the previous week, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.

Prices a month ago were at $3.33. Last year at this time, consumers were paying more than 20 cents more, $3.71, at the pump.

Today's mid-range unleaded is $3.63, from $3.61 the week prior, while today's premium unleaded price is $3.76, up nearly 10 cents from $3.68.

Diesel fuel prices are averaging $3.76, from $3.74 last week. The price of diesel fuel is up from $3.66 a month ago, and down from $3.96 a year ago.

Natural gas

Natural gas prices increased by double-digit amounts at most trading locations over the report week, with a few exceptions in the Northeast. The Henry Hub spot price rose from $2.84 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) at the beginning of the report week on July 18 to $3.19 per MMBtu on July 25.

At the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), the near-month (August 2012) natural gas contract rose 9.7 cents to $3.07 per MMBtu.

Pizza company stocks

Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. closed last week at $66.73, another jump from $65.86 the week prior, and $64.72 two weeks ago. The company hit its 52-week high in May at $74.44. Its 52-week low is $47.15 from a year ago. Yum! Brands has received a lift from its modest earnings report earlier this month.

Domino's closed last Friday at $33.85, up from $33.24 the week prior. DPZ's 52-week high was $42.21 in April. Shares remain higher over this time last year when the company traded at $22.84. Domino's turned in a positive earnings report last week to give its shares a boost.

Papa John's closed last Friday at $51.20, down from $52.59 the week prior. PZZA hit its 52-week high last week at $52.97. The Street reported that the company's share price jumped more than 5 percent since presidential candidate Mitt Romney mentioned the chain in a speech two weeks ago. The company hit its 52-week low of $26.95 a year ago.

CEC Entertainment Inc., parent company of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, closed out last week at $34.61, down from $35.59 the week prior. The company hit its 52-week high of $40.01 a year ago. Its 52-week low was $25.83 in September.

Pizza Inn closed Friday at $2.36, up slightly from $2.34 the previous week. PZZI hit its 52-week high of $7.07 in December and traded as low as $2.18 a year ago.

Photo provided by geograph UK.

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