Gas prices experience rare September spike

A rare post-Labor Day jump in gas prices can be attributed to heightened volatility in the Middle East, the continued aftermath of Hurricane Isaac and a handful of oil refineries being shut down for upgrades.

Some pizza stocks benefited from a strong Wall Street finish last week on news that the Federal Reserve plans to buy mortgage securities to stimulate the U.S. economy. Last week's stocks rallied to their highest levels since 2007.

Cheese

Average block cheese prices jumped 2 cents to $1.84 last week on the Chicago Mercantile Market, from $1.82 the week prior.

Cheese prices are more than 15 cents higher than they were at the beginning of August, closing at $1.83 Monday and Tuesday, $1.84 Wednesday, $1.85 Thursday and $1.87 Friday.

Wheat

Wheat prices jumped to $9.40 last week Minneapolis Grain Exchange, from $9.26 the week prior. Wheat is nearly $2 higher than in June, when it averaged $7.49.

Prices closed at $9.27 Monday, $9.26 Tuesday, $9.39 Wednesday and Thursday and $9.71 Friday.

Gasoline and diesel fuel

Today's nationwide average for regular unleaded fuel is $3.86, up from $3.82 last week, a rare September surge. Price increases are being blamed on escalated tensions in the Middle East and the lingering aftermath of Hurricane Isaac.

According to the AAA and the Oil Price Information Service, prices a month ago were $3.72. Last year at this time, consumers were paying $3.60 at the pump.

Today's mid-range unleaded is $4.01, up from $3.97 last week, while today's premium is $4.14.

Diesel fuel prices today are at $4.12, up a penny from $4.11 last week. The price of diesel fuel is up from $3.97 a month ago, and from $3.89 a year ago.

Natural gas

Natural gas prices increased for the report week (Sept. 5 to Sept. 12) at many of the country's trading locations, with an exception at Transco Zone 6-NY, which registered a decrease of 3 cents. The Henry Hub price closed at $2.96 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), up 9 cents for the week.

The natural gas futures market trended steadily higher over the week. At the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), the October 2012 natural gas contract gained nearly 27 cents per MMBtu to close at $3.063 per MMBtu Sept. 11.

Pizza company stocks

Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. closed last week at $66.56, up from $65.75 last week and from $63.72 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.

Domino's closed last Friday at $34.17, down from $36.16 the previous Friday. DPZ's 52-week high was $42.21 in April. Shares remain higher over this time last year when the company traded at $25.29.

Papa John's closed last Friday at $51.60, a drop from $52.78 the week prior. PZZA hit its 52-week high at $56.41 after turning in a strong earnings report in early August. The company hit its 52-week low of $27.97 a year ago.

CEC Entertainment Inc., parent company of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, closed out last week at $31.34, up from $30.68 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 $3.37, slightly down from $3.43 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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