Fiscal cliff agreement boosts pizza stocks

Public pizza companies emerged from the holidays with higher share prices across the board thanks to an agreement in Washington, D.C., that kept the country from going off the so-called fiscal cliff.

In fact, the S&P 500 finished last week at its highest collective closing since December 2007.

Also during the slow Christmas and New Year's period, cheese prices rose slightly, while the cost of wheat fell.

Gas prices are also lower than they were a month ago and continue to slide from their late-summer peak.

Cheese

Average block cheese prices rose slightly through the holidays, averaging $1.72 the week before Christmas (Dec. 17-Dec. 21); $1.74 the week of Christmas (Dec. 24-Dec. 28); and $1.76 last week (Dec. 31-Jan. 4).

The $1.76 average last week matches cheese prices from the week of Dec. 17.

From Dec. 31 through Jan. 4, prices closed at $1.76 each day, according to the Chicago Mercantile Market.

Wheat

Wheat prices have fallen 65 cents since the beginning of December, averaging $8.48 last week on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. Prices closed at $8.65 Monday (Dec. 31), $8.41 Wednesday, $8.46 Thursday and $8.41 on Friday. The markets were closed Tuesday due to the New Year's holiday.

The week prior, from Dec. 24-Dec. 28, wheat prices averaged $8.70. And, the week prior to that, from Dec. 17-Dec. 21, wheat was averaging $8.91.

During the week of Dec. 10, wheat averaged $9.13. The crop is still significantly higher than it was during the middle of the summer, when prices averaged $7.49.

Gasoline and diesel fuel

Today's nationwide average for regular unleaded fuel is $3.29, even from $3.29 the week prior.

According to the AAA and the Oil Price Information Service, prices a month ago were $3.35. Last year at this time, consumers were paying $3.37 at the pump.

Today's mid-range unleaded is $3.45, up a penny from $3.44 last week. Premium gas is $3.60, also even from last week.

Diesel fuel prices are currently $3.90, from $3.91 last week. The price of diesel fuel is down from $3.99 last month and up from $3.85 last year.

Natural gas

The natural gas gauge was closed throughout the holidays, therefore the last reported prices are from the week of Dec. 12-Dec. 19 when they fell modestly. The Henry Hub closed at $3.25 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) Dec. 19, down 8 cents for the week. Trading points in the Northeast saw more substantial price drops.

The January 2013 New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex) contract fell by 6.2 cents, from $3.382 per MMBtu Dec. 12 to close at $3.320 per MMBtu Dec. 19. The near-month Nymex price is 7 cents above the Henry Hub price.

Pizza company stocks

Pizza stocks closed significantly higher across the board last Friday compared to Dec. 21, before the holidays. The entire market started 2013 strong thanks to a delayed agreement in Washington to avert going off the fiscal cliff. The S&P 500 finished last week at its highest collective closing since December 2007.

Shares of Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. closed at $67.58, up from $64.72 the week prior. The company's 52-week high was in the spring at $74.75. Its 52-week low is $59.32 from a year ago.

Domino's closed last Friday at $44.61, up from $42.63 the week prior. The company hit a fresh 52-week earlier last week at $45.98. Its previous peak was $42.69 in April. Shares remain higher over this time last year when the company traded at $28.17.

Papa John's closed out last week $56.66, up from $52.89 the week prior. PZZA hit its 52-week high at $56.69 earlier last week, barely eclipsing its previous high of $56.41 set in August. The company hit its 52-week low of $36.26 a year ago.

CEC Entertainment Inc., parent company of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, closed out last week at $33.66, up from $32.19 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 finished last week at $3.61, a 20-cent jump from $3.41 the week prior. PZZI hit its 52-week high of $6.50 a year ago and traded as low as $2.18 in June.

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