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The commodities markets continue to be in the spotlight as the U.S. faces its largest drought since the 1950s. According to the National Climatic Data Center, about 55 percent of the country experienced at least moderate short-term drought in June for the first time since December 1956.
The effects of the extreme weather conditions will likely lead to higher food costs sooner than later. Of particular concern is the corn harvest, which will spike the cost of beef, pork, poultry and dairy.
Wheat prices jumped past $10 last week, while gas, cheese and natural gas also rose.
Average block cheese prices were up to $1.71 last week on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, from $1.65 the week prior.
Cheese prices closed at $1.70 Monday, $1.72 Tuesday and Wednesday, and $1.71 Thursday and Friday.
Wheat prices jumped again last week on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, averaging $10.03, from $9.21 the week prior. Wheat averaged $7.49 in early June.
Wheat closed at $9.83 Monday, $9.85 Tuesday, $9.98 Wednesday, $10.22 Thursday and $10.31 Friday.
Gasoline and diesel fuel
Today's nationwide average for regular unleaded fuel is $3.47, up eight cents from $3.39 the previous week, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.
Prices a month ago were at $3.43. Last year at this time, consumers were paying more than 20 cents more, $3.69, at the pump.
Today's mid-range unleaded is $3.61, from $3.54 the week prior, while today's premium unleaded price is $3.75, from $3.68.
Diesel fuel prices are averaging $3.74, from $3.68 last week. The price of diesel fuel is up from $3.72 a month ago, and down from $3.95 a year ago.
Natural gas prices generally registered overall increases for the report week (July 11 to July 18) at many of the country's trading locations. The Henry Hub price, which had gained 20 cents per million British thermal units (MMBtu) by July 16's close and rose modestly July 17 to close at $2.84 per MMBtu, is up 12 cents for the week.
The natural gas futures market rebounded sharply after declining moderately from earlier in the reporting week. At the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), the August 2012 natural gas contract gained 12.0 cents per MMBtu to close at $2.973 per MMBtu July 17.
Pizza company stocks
Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. closed last week at $65.86, a jump from $64.72 the week prior. The company hit its 52-week high in May at $74.44. Its 52-week low is $47.15 from a year ago. Yum! Brands got a slight lift from its modest earnings report last week.
Domino's closed last Friday at $33.24, up from $31.81 a week ago. DPZ's 52-week high was $42.21 in April. Shares remain higher over this time last year when the company traded at $22.84. Domino's reports its second quarter earnings July 24.
Papa John's closed last Friday at $52.59, up nearly $3 from $49.44 the week prior. PZZA hit its 52-week high earlier in the week at $52.97. The Street reported that the company's share price jumped more than 5 percent since presidential candidate Mitt Romney mentioned the chain in a speech last week. The company hit its 52-week low of $26.95 a year ago.
CEC Entertainment Inc., parent company of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, closed out last week at $35.59, down a bit from $36.06 the week prior. The company hit its 52-week high of $41.44 in July 2011. Its 52-week low was $25.83 in September.
Pizza Inn closed Friday at $2.34, a drop from $2.47 the previous week. PZZI hit its 52-week high of $7.07 in December and traded as low as $2.18 a year ago.
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