Commodities: Little in way of luck o' Irish for pizza stocks

| by S.A. Whitehead
Commodities: Little in way of luck o' Irish for pizza stocks

The lucky leprechauns of St. Patrick's Day appear to have leaped right over pizza restaurateurs last week, after five days of relatively little to celebrate on the commodities and stock markets in the way of prices. Some grades of wheat were the only critical commodity prices to drop last week, while most pizza brands took a hit in value again last week.


The tumble that cheese prices took two weeks ago recovered slightly over the course of trading last week, with the price closing Friday at $1.40, up almost 2 cents over the previous week's close. Cheese prices have been in free-fall for the last several months. 


Compared to last week, wheat was mostly lower, though the sub-freezing temperatures across major U.S. winter wheat-growing areas might cause traders to show some interest, at some point, according to the U.S.D.A. Wheat shipments updated marketing year totals continue to run behind the U.S.D.A.'s projected pace. Weekly export sales for wheat were listed at 12.4 mb (338,600 mt) with 
9.7 mb (264,400 mt) for the 2016-2017 marketing year. 

Overall last week, wheat was 8 cents lower to 19 cents higher. Kansas City U.S. No.1 Hard Red Winter, ordinary protein rail bid was 12 1/2 to 16 1/2 cents lower from $4.67 to $5.18 per bushel. Kansas City U.S. No. 2 Soft Red winter rail bid was not quoted.  

St. Louis truck U.S. No. 2 Soft Red Winter terminal bid was 7 to 8 cents lower from $4.16 to $4.31 per bushel. Minneapolis and Duluth U.S. No. 1 Dark Northern Spring, 14.0 to 14.5 percent protein rail, was 5 1/4 to 19 1/4 cents higher from $6.38 to $6.68 per bushel. Portland U.S. Soft White wheat rail was 8 cents lower from $4.56 to $4.71 per bushel.

Gasoline and diesel fuel

At the fuel pump, gas prices remained fairly stable again this week, leveling off from last month overall, but still significantly higher than those paltry prices paid last year at this time. The average price for a gallon of regular this morning in the U.S. was $2.29 a gallon, down less than a cent from last week, but up 1 cent from last month, while 31 cents above what we paid this time last year. 

That general trend continued into higher gasoline grades, but remained fairly flat for diesel from last month's prices. For instance, mid-grade was $2.57 this morning, up just a cent from last month,while premium was $2.82, up 2 cents ffrom from last month. But the price of diesel was flat compared to last month at $2.51. Diesel also has shown the greatest increase from last year's prices, with prices this morning at $2.51, up 43 cents from the $2.08 we paid this time last year. 

Natural gas
The Henry Hub spot price rose 31 cents between the seven-day period from March 8 to Marc 15, from $2.69/MMBtu to $3.00/MMBtu. At the Chicago Citygate, prices increased 13 cents over that same period to $2.93/MMBtu yesterday. Prices in California were flatter than in areas of the country, which were affected by unseasonably cold temperatures and a late-winter snowstorm. 

The largest spot price increases occurred in New England, where the Algonquin Citygate (Boston) price rose to $7.92 per million British thermal unit (MMBtu) on Friday, March 10, its highest level since Jan. 6. At the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex), the April 2017 contract price rose 8 cents, to $2.981/MMBtu on Wednesday, March 15.

Net withdrawals from working gas totaled 53 Bcf for the week ending March 10. Working natural gas stocks are 2,242 Bcf, which is 10 percent less than the year-ago level and 21 percent greater than the five-year (2012–16) average for this week. The average natural gas plant liquids composite price at Mont Belvieu, Texas, fell by 11 cents, averaging $6.12/MMBtu for the week ending March 10. 

The price of natural gasoline, butane, and isobutane fell by 4, 6 and 3 percent, respectively. The price of ethane rose by 2 percent, while the price of propane remained flat week over week. According to Baker Hughes, for the week ending Friday, March 10, the natural gas rig count increased by 5 to 151. The number of oil-directed rigs rose by 8 to 617. The number of miscellaneous rigs went down by 1 during the week. The total rig count increased by 12, and it now stands at 768.

Pizza company stocks

It was another relatively dismal week for pizza stocks with Domino's falling in value over the course of last week's trading from $186.79 on Monday to $184.83 at the closing bell on St. Patrick's Day. 

Pizza Hut parent, Yum Brands, also dropped in value over the week, closing at $63.87 Friday, down 51 cents from Monday. Fellow Louisville-based pizza brand, Papa John's closed Friday at $76, down 29 cents from Monday. 

The only bright spot was at Papa Murphy's which, much like last week, gained value over the trading period, rising from $4 on Monday, to $4.14 at the close of trading Friday. 


Photo: iStock

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Financial News

S.A. Whitehead

Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, Shelly Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of and after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.

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