Winter wheat crop threatened by U.S. drought

Although gas prices tempered a bit this week, the cost of diesel jumped, according to AAA.

The lingering drought across much of the U.S. has experts concerned about the winter wheat crop.

Yum! Brands' stock jumped more than $3 last week after another strong earnings report, boosted by its China business. Here is a closer look at the weekly commodities markets:

Cheese

Average block cheese prices were up a penny last week on the Chicago Mercantile Market, averaging $2.10, from $2.09 the previous week. Cheese prices were $1.84 a month ago.

Prices closed at $2.10 every day, Monday through Friday.

Wheat

Wheat prices inched up to $9.31 last week on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, from $9.27 the week prior. Wheat is nearly $2 higher than it was in the summer, when prices averaged $7.49.

Prices closed at $9.31 Monday, $9.28 Tuesday, $9.33 Wednesday, $9.46 Thursday and $9.24 Friday.

Lingering drought conditions in the U.S. have experts worried that wheat farmers may abandon their winter crops. According to Reuters, September was the driest month in 118 years of record keeping for three wheat-heavy states. Sixty-nine percent of the U.S. winter wheat area is experiencing some level of drought.

Gasoline and diesel fuel

Today's nationwide average for regular unleaded fuel is $3.78, down from $3.81 last week when gas prices experienced a rare October increase.

According to the AAA and the Oil Price Information Service, prices a month ago were $3.86. Last year at this time, consumers were paying $3.45 at the pump.

Today's mid-range unleaded is $3.96, from $4 last week, while today's premium is $4.11, from $4.14.

Diesel fuel prices are headed in the opposite direction, jumping up to $4.13 today, compared to $4.09 last week. The price of diesel fuel is up from $4.12 a month ago, and up from $3.80 last year.

Natural gas

Natural gas price changes at key trading points were mixed for the report week (Oct. 3 to Oct. 10). The Henry Hub spot price closed at $3.26 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) Oct. 9, up 5 cents per MMBtu for the week. Spot prices rose in the Midwest, Rocky Mountains, and Pacific Northwest, while falling in Southern California and remaining unchanged in the Northeast.

The November 2012 New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) edged upwards by 8 cents per MMBtu, from $3.395 per MMBtu Oct. 3 to $3.475 per MMBtu Oct. 9.

Pizza company stocks

Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. closed last week at $69.45, up more than $3 from $66 the week prior, after turning in another positive earnings report. The company hit its 52-week high in May at $74.44. Its 52-week low is $50.60 from a year ago.

Domino's closed last Friday at $37.70, a slight drop from $37.78 last week. The company's 52-week high was $42.21 in April. Shares remain higher over this time last year when the company traded at $27.75.

Papa John's closed last Friday at $51.96, down from $52.70 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 $31.58 a year ago.

CEC Entertainment Inc., parent company of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, closed out last week at $30.12, up from $29.55 the week prior. The company's 52-week high was $40.01 in March. Its 52-week low was $28.23 a year ago.

Pizza Inn closed Friday at $2.56, from $2.90 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 Bert Kaufmann.

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