Commodities: Pizza  stocks fall, gas rises

| by S.A. Whitehead
Commodities: Pizza  stocks fall, gas rises

The afterglow of a profitable Thanksgiving week of trading for pizza restaurateurs is all but gone this week after pizza stock prices returned to a much lower overall value, and the cost of fuel and natural gas began to creep up in the run-up to the holidays. 

Cheese was the brightest spot in the commodities report from last week with prices dropping a nickel over the course of the week and 10 cents below its price of $1.91 two weeks ago to close out on Friday at $1.81. 

It was a neutral news week for wheat, with the commodity running 30 cents lower to 12 cents higher. Kansas City U.S. No. 1 Hard Red Winter, ordinary protein rail bid was 27 1/2 to 30 1/2 cents lower from $4 to $4.93 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 25 to 30 cents lower from $3.75 to $3.80 per bushel. Minneapolis and Duluth U.S. No. 1 Dark Northern Spring, 14.0 to 14.5 percent protein rail, was 7 1/4 to 12 1/4 cents higher at $6.58 1/2 per bushel. Portland U.S. Soft White wheat rail was 21 cents lower to 10 cents higher, from $4.40 1/2  to $4.75 per bushel.

Gasoline and diesel fuel
Gas prices appear to be starting their annual rise for the holiday travel season, with the average price of regular this morning at $2.18, up nearly 6 cents from a week ago, but still about 4 cents lower than last month. Compared to this time last year, the price of regular gas — like other grades was substantially higher this week — compared to the $2.04 we paid this time last year. 

Other grades reflect the same story, although the fluctuations are not as large for the prices paid on average today for diesel fuel. For instance, mid-grade is running $2.45, which is 4 cents lower than a month, but 13 cents higher than last year at this time. Premium also was $2.69 on average this morning, down 4 cents from last month, but still a substantial 15 cents higher than this time last year. 

Diesel was at $2.41 on average this morning, down a penny from last month and  up just a penny from last year at this time. 

Natural gas
Price movements were up at most locations this week. This report week (Wednesday, Nov. 23 to Wednesday, Nov. 30), the Henry Hub spot price rose 55 cents from $2.74/MMBtu last Wednesday to $3.29/MMBtu yesterday. Prices increased at many trading locations at the end of the report week. Some market analysts cited forecasts of colder weather and predictions of a larger-than-average storage draw as reasons for the price increases. At the Chicago Citygate, prices increased 59 cents to $3.29/MMBtu yesterday. Prices at PG&E Citygate in Northern California gained 41 cents, to $3.60/MMBtu yesterday. The price at SoCal Citygate rose 68 cents to settle at $3.50/MMBtu yesterday.

Unseasonably warm weather is reducing the overall demand here in most parts of the U.S. for natural gas, related to heating. For the first time since April, weekly residential/commercial consumption of natural gas exceeded power burn. Over the past five years (2011–15), this transition in demand has occurred at the end of October on average, but this year the switch in primary consuming sector occurred several weeks later than in past years. Residential/commercial consumption in the Lower 48 states averaged 28 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) during the week ending Thursday, Nov. 24, and power burn averaged 22 Bcf/d, according to data from PointLogic.

Overall, natural gas spot prices rose at most locations this report week (Wednesday, Nov. 23 to Wednesday, Nov. 30). The Henry Hub spot price rose from $2.74 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) last Wednesday to $3.29/MMBtu yesterday. At the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex), the December 2016 contract expired Monday at $3.232/MMBtu. The January 2017 contract increased through the week to $3.352/MMBtu, up 21cents Wednesday to Wednesday.

Net withdrawals from working gas totaled 50 billion cubic feet (Bcf) for the week ending Nov. 25. Working natural gas stocks are 3,995 Bcf, which is 1 percent greater than the year-ago level and 6 percent greater than the five-year (2011–15) average for this week. The natural gas plant liquids composite price at Mont Belvieu, Texas, rose by 22 cents, closing at $5.64/MMBtu for the week ending Nov. 25. The prices of natural gasoline, ethane, and isobutane all rose by 4 percent, and the prices of propane and butane rose by 3 and 6 percent, respectively.

Futures prices are also up. At the Nymex, the December 2016 contract expired Monday at $3.232/MMBtu, up 21 cents from last Wednesday. The January 2017 contract increased to $3.352/MMBtu, up 21 cents from last Wednesday to yesterday. The price of the 12-month strip, averaging January 2017 through December 2017 futures contracts, climbed 11 cents to $3.293/MMBtu.

Pizza company stocks
Unfortunately, the great news from Thanksgiving week trading that came after all the pizza stocks monitored here were sent soaring has settled back into a lower December reality. Domino's, for instance, which started the week at $171.57, had fallen to $168 at the close, a story shared by the other three brands monitored by For instance, also on the New York Stock Exchange, Pizza Hut parent company, Yum Brands, took an 8 cent hit over the course of the week, dropping to $62.42 at Friday's close from $62.50 when the markets opened last Monday. 

Meanwhile, over on the NASDAQ, Papa John's International experienced a steeper decline on the week. That brand was trading at $86.21 at the close Friday, a decline of $1.72 from Monday's opening price of $87.93. Finally, Papa Murphy's Holdings fell to $4.68 Friday, down 24 cents from the start of the week  when the brand was fetching $4.92. 

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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