Premium gas prices hit $4 mark

The country's widespread drought continues to hold the commodities market in its grip. Cheese is up more than 15 cents from two weeks ago. Wheat prices have slid after spiking past $10 in July. Gas prices continue to rise, as well, with numerous factors cited as reason for the increases.

Cheese

Average block cheese prices jumped to $1.86 last week on the Chicago Mercantile Market, from $1.81 the week prior and $1.70 two weeks ago.

Cheese prices closed at $1.85 Monday through Wednesday, $1.90 Thursday and $1.87 Friday.

Wheat

Wheat prices dropped to $9.14 last week on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, from $9.43 the week prior. Wheat averaged $7.49 in early June.

Wheat closed at $9.11 Monday, $9.02 Tuesday, $9.13 Wednesday, $9.21 Thursday and $9.27 Friday.

Gasoline and diesel fuel

Analysts, including the Lundberg Survey, attribute surging gas prices to more expensive summer blends, rising crude oil prices, refinery problems, tensions in Syria and Iran and a possibility of ethanol shortages from a drought-affected corn harvest.

Today's nationwide average for regular unleaded fuel is $3.72, up again from $3.69 last week and an increase of more than a quarter from last month, according to the AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.

Prices a month ago were at $3.45. Last year, consumers were paying $3.57 at the pump.

Today's mid-range unleaded is $3.87, up from $3.84 the week prior, while today's premium is $4.00, from $3.98.

Diesel fuel prices today are at $3.98, from $3.92 last week. The price of diesel fuel is up from $3.72 a month ago, and from $3.88 a year ago.

Natural gas

Natural gas prices generally registered overall decreases for the report week (Aug. 8 to Aug. 15) at many of the country's trading locations. The Henry Hub price, which had fallen 19 cents per million British thermal units (MMBtu) by Aug. 13's close, increased relatively modestly on Aug. 14 and 15 to close at $2.82 per MMBtu down 14 cents for the week.

The natural gas futures market dropped sharply after a modest increase earlier in the reporting week, then rebounded toward the end of the week. At the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), the September 2012 natural gas contract lost 18.5 cents per MMBtu to close at $2.748 per MMBtu Aug. 14.

Pizza company stocks

Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. closed last week at $66.10, a slight drop from $66.83 the week prior. The company hit its 52-week high in May at $74.44. Its 52-week low is $47.15 from a year ago.

Domino's closed last Friday at $36.05, an almost $2 jump from $34.09 the week prior. The company announced it was rolling out a new store model and logo, as well as developing a new delivery vehicle. DPZ's 52-week high was $42.21 in April. Shares remain higher over this time last year when the company traded at $25.25.

Papa John's closed last Friday at $52.15, up from $51.27 the week prior. PZZA hit its 52-week high at $56.41 after turning in a strong earnings report three weeks ago. The company hit its 52-week low of $26.96 a year ago.

CEC Entertainment Inc., parent company of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, closed out last week at $30.08, up slightly from $29.56 the week prior. The company's 52-week high was $40.01 a year ago. Its 52-week low was $25.83 in September.

Pizza Inn closed Friday at $3.60, a bump from $3.10 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 slowsicily.com.

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