Cost of wheat drops near pre-drought levels

The average cost of wheat is now sub-$8 for the first time in months. Cheese prices are down, and consumers today also experienced a relief at the gas pump after weeks on the rise.

Cheese

Average block cheese prices continued falling last week on the Chicago Mercantile, averaging $1.59 from $1.64 the week prior. Cheese prices are about 20 cents lower than they were at the beginning of the year, when they averaged $1.76.

Last week, cheese markets closed at $1.60 on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, $1.59 Thursday and $1.57 on Friday.

Wheat

Wheat prices fell below the $8 mark for the first time in months last week on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, averaging $7.96, from $8.10 the week prior. Wheat averaged $9.13 at the end of 2012.

Prices are falling close to their mid-summer 2012 average of $7.49, before the drought kicked in.

Last week, wheat closed at $7.87 Monday, $7.89 Tuesday, $7.87 Wednesday, $7.99 Thursday and $8.19 on Friday.

Gasoline and diesel fuel

Today's nationwide average for regular unleaded fuel is $3.74, a 3-cent drop from $3.77 the week prior and a bit of a relief after more than two months on the rise. According to the AAA and the Oil Price Information Service, prices a month ago were $3.39. Last year at this time, consumers were paying $3.76 at the pump.

Today's mid-range unleaded is $3.91, down from $3.93 last week. Premium gas is $4.06, down from $4.08 last week.

Diesel fuel prices are also down slightly, at $4.12, from $4.14 last week. The price of diesel fuel is up from $3.95 last month and from $4.07 a year ago.

Natural gas

Natural gas prices were up modestly for most points outside the Northeast for the report week (Feb. 20-Feb. 27). The Henry Hub closed at $3.49 per million British thermal unit (MMBtu) Feb. 27, up 15 cents per MMBtu for the week. The exceptions were trading points in the Northeast, where prices declined significantly.

The March 2013 New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex) contract increased by 4.2 percent or $0.148 per MMBtu, from $3.279 per MMBtu Feb. 20 to $3.427 per MMBtu on Feb. 26, its final day of trading. The near-month Nymex price finished trading on Feb. 26 at 3 cents per MMBtu below the Henry Hub price.

Pizza company stocks

Shares of Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. rose 3 cents to close at $65.48 Friday, from $65.45 the week prior. Yum! continues to recover from its China supply chain "crisis" earlier this year. The company's 52-week high was $74.75 in November. It hit a new 52-week low of $59.68 on Feb. 5.

Domino's closed last Friday at $47.62, after posting a strong Q4 earnings report. This was a jump from $46.07 the week prior. The company hit a fresh 52-week high last week at $48.72. Shares in June were traded at $28.17.

Papa John's, however, fell to $52.01 after a weaker-than-forecasted earnings report, compared to $56.57 the week prior. PZZA hit its 52-week high at $57.32 on Feb. 26. The company hit its 52-week low of $36.51 a year ago.

CEC Entertainment Inc., parent company of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, closed out last week at $30.25, from $31.18 the week prior. CEC hit its 52-week high a year ago at $39.72. Its 52-week low was in August at $28.23.

Pizza Inn closed out last week at $3.15, from $3.22 the week prior. PZZI hit its 52-week high of $5.08 in March 2012 and traded as low as $2.18 in June.

Read more supply chain and commodities news.

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