Polar vortex weather drives up natural gas prices

Last week's extreme weather events that blanketed the country drove natural gas spot prices up at most locations during.

Meanwhile, on Wall Street, Chuck E. Cheese's parent company turned in a new 52-week high after rumors of a sale floated. In other news:


Cheese prices continued to increase last week, averaging $2.15, from $2.01 on the Chicago Mercantile. Cheese averaged $1.89 in early December.

Last week, prices closed at $2.05 Monday, $2.11 Tuesday, and $2.20 on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.


Conversely, wheat prices continued to fall last week on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange and are at their lowest level in years, averaging $6.27, from $6.30 the week prior. Wheat was more than $7.50 two months ago.

Prices closed at $6.30 Monday and Tuesday, $6.27 Wednesday, $6.29 Thursday and $6.20 on Friday.

Gasoline and diesel fuel

To kick off the New Year, the nationwide average price for regular unleaded fuel today is $3.31, even from $3.31 the week prior. According to the AAA and the Oil Price Information Service, prices a month ago were $3.23.

Last year at this time, consumers were paying $3.30 at the pump.

Today's mid-range unleaded is $3.49, also even from $3.49 the week prior. Premium gas is $3.66, also even from $3.66 last week.

Diesel fuel prices are averaging $3.86, from $3.87 the week prior. The price of diesel fuel was $3.85 a month ago and $3.90 last year.

Natural gas

Natural gas spot prices increased at most locations during the report week in response to extremely high weather-driven demand. The Henry Hub spot price posted a slight overall from $4.33/million British thermal unit (MMBtu) Jan. 2 to $4.35/MMBtu Jan. 8, with an increase up to $4.54/MMBtu in the middle of the report week. Regional price variations were much more pronounced, with some Northeast prices rising to greater than $70/MMBtu in trading Jan. 6.

At the New York Mercantile Exchange, the February 2014 contract fell from $4.321/MMBtu Jan. 2 to $4.216/MMBtu Jan. 8.

Pizza company stocks

Shares of Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. closed out last week at $75.05, down slightly from $75.09 the week prior. The company hit a new 52-week high in November, at $78.68. Its 52-week low was in early February 2013, at $59.68.

Domino's finished last week at $70.28, up from $68.94 the week prior. DPZ hit a new 52-week high last week at $71.36. Its 52-week low was $44.38 a year ago.

Papa John's shares finished last week at $46.14, up from $45.32 the week prior. PZZA hit a 52-week high of $46.90 two weeks ago. Its low of $24.94 was a year ago.

CEC Entertainment Inc., parent company of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, closed out last week at $49.56, up from $44.40 after rumors of a sale circulated. The company hit a new 52-week-high last week at $49.89. Its annual low was a year ago at $28.95.

Pizza Inn Holdings closed out last week at $7.98, down slightly from $8.09 the week prior. The company's 52-week-high was $9.18 in May. It traded as low as $3.03 a year ago.

Read more about food cost management.

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