Gas prices continue to climb and are up nearly 25 cents since the end of January. According to AAA, an increase in crude oil prices and production issues at a handful of refineries have attributed to the increase. The escalation is expected to continue as the approaching switch to summer blends could put a strain on supplies.
On a brighter note, wheat prices have fallen 20 cents in the past week.
Average block cheese prices remained steady last week on the Chicago Mercantile Market, averaging $1.64. Cheese prices remain down from the beginning of the year when they averaged $1.76.
Cheese markets closed at $1.64 Monday through Thursday and $1.65 on Friday.
Wheat prices fell 20 cents last week on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, averaging $8.42, from $8.62 the week prior.
Wheat closed at $8.47 Monday, $8.41 Tuesday, $8.44 Wednesday, $8.39 Thursday and $8.36 on Friday.
Wheat prices were averaging $9.13 at the end of 2012. Even though prices have since fallen, they remain significantly higher than during the summer drought, when prices averaged $7.49.
Gasoline and diesel fuel
Today's nationwide average for regular unleaded fuel is $3.58, up from $3.52 the week prior and nearly a quarter more than at the end of January. According to the AAA and the Oil Price Information Service, prices a month ago were $3.31. Last year at this time, consumers were paying $3.50 at the pump.
Today's mid-range unleaded is $3.74, up from $3.68 last week. Premium gas is $3.89, up from $3.83 last week.
Diesel fuel prices are currently $4.04, from $3.97 last week. The price of diesel fuel is also up from $3.90 last month and from $3.92 a year ago.
Natural gas prices rose at most major regional trading locations this week, particularly in the Northeast. Prices in New York and New England, which fell back to single-digit dollar levels at the end of last report week due to the end of a cold snap, rose back into the double-digits upon the arrival of more cold weather. The Henry Hub price rose by 17 cents per million British thermal units (MMBtu) this week to $3.41 per MMBtu, after having dropped last week by 29 cents per MMBtu.
The March 2013 New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex) contract rose by 2.5 percent from $3.335 per MMBtu Jan. 30 to $3.418 per MMBtu Feb. 6. Similarly, the April 2013 Nymex contract rose by 2.3 percent, from $3.385 per MMBtu Jan. 30 to $3.464 per MMBtu Feb. 6.
Pizza company stocks
Shares of Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. fell last week after its Q4 2012 earnings report, closing Friday at $63.57, down from $64.94 the week prior. The company's 52-week high was in the spring at $74.75. Its 52-week low is $59.68 from a year ago.
Domino's closed last Friday at $46.50, a slight drop from $46.57 the week prior. The company hit a fresh 52-week high in January at $47.91. Shares remain higher over this time last year when the company traded at $28.17. According to Seeking Alpha, Domino's was up "an astonishing 28 percent in 2012. So far, the returns have continued in to 2013 with shares up about 6.50 percent since the start of the year."
Papa John's closed out last week $55.93, down from $56.10 the week prior. PZZA hit its 52-week high at $56.94 last month. 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 $32.85, from $32.96 the week prior. CEC's 52-week range is $28.23 to $40.01.
Pizza Inn tumbled to $3.27 on Friday, following a slow earnings report. This compares to $3.80 the week prior. PZZI hit its 52-week high of $5.16 a year ago and traded as low as $2.18 in June.
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Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.