Commodities: Little joy to the world in pizza commodity prices

| by S.A. Whitehead
Commodities: Little joy to the world in pizza commodity prices

Aside from natural gas prices, most commodities traded higher last week in the U.S., with prices for cheese, wheat and fuel rising over the week. Also, Papa John's was the only pizza chain that reported a markedly profitable week, while the other three brands monitored here remaining essentially flat or falling slightly over the course of the trading week. 

Cheese prices rebounded, gaining back most of the loss they experienced a week earlier to close the week at $1.80. That's up 9 cents from last Friday and down a penny from two weeks ago. 

Compared to last week, grain and soybean bids traded higher last week, according to the USDA, which monitors commodities prices. Unfavorable weather conditions in South America lent support to the grains, along with good export demand. 

With the U.S. harvest season over, the focus is shifting to South America, one of the biggest producers of grain. Weekly export sales and shipments for wheat totaled 18.5 and 20.4 mb, respectively. This is bullish news for wheat.  

Kansas City U.S. No. 1 Hard Red Winter, ordinary protein rail bid was 8 to 11 cents higher, from $4.09 ¾ to $5.02 3/4 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 9 to 14 cents higher at 4.02 per bushel. Minneapolis and Duluth U.S. No. 1 Dark Northern Spring, 14.0 to 14.5 percent protein rail, was 27 to 42 cents higher, from $6.83 to $6.88 per bushel. Portland U.S. Soft White wheat rail was 16 3/4 cents lower to 1 cent higher from $4.54 ¼ to $4.60 1/4 per bushel.

Gasoline and diesel fuel
You need only look at auto fuel prices to know what time of year it is. Clearly, the Christmas holiday travel season has begun in the U.S., and oil companies are giving themselves a gift, with the average price of a gallon of regular at the pump this Monday morning at $2.24 — up nearly a quarter from last year at this time when we paid just $2 a gallon. That price is also up about three cents from a week ago and nine cents from the previous month. 

That was also the story across gasoline grades, with mid-grade averaging $2.50 this morning, up from $2.28 last year and premium at $2.74 today, up from $2.51 this time last year. The cost of diesel has been less volatile, but still reflects the overall trend, with the price of a gallon this morning at $2.45, up from $2.39 last month and $2.32 a year ago during the pre-Christmas week. 

Natural gas
Natural gas spot prices fell at most locations this report week (Dec. 7 - 14). The Henry Hub spot price fell from $3.76 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) last Wednesday to $3.52/MMBtu yesterday. At the New York Mercantile Exchange, the January 2017 contract price fell six cents from $3.603/MMBtu last Wednesday to $3.540/MMBtu yesterday.

Net withdrawals from working gas, exceeded market expectations and prices rose in heavy trading. Net withdrawals totaled 147 billion cubic feet (Bcf) for the week ending Dec. 9. Working natural gas stocks are 3,806 Bcf, which is 1 percent less than the year-ago level and 5 percent greater than the five-year (2011–15) average for this week. That is partly due to another significant increase in demand for this product, with total U.S. consumption of natural gas rising by 10 percent compared with the previous report week, according to data from PointLogic. 

Temperatures dropped on the week, but still remain slightly warmer than normal. Temperatures in the Lower 48 states fell 7 degrees on the week and averaged 40 degrees. Nonetheless, temperatures were still considerably warmer than normal last week. 

Power burn climbed by 8 percent week over week, and consumption in the residential and commercial sectors increased by 17 percent. Industrial sector consumption remained flat. Natural gas exports to Mexico decreased 6 percent.

Supply of natural gas is essentially flat. According to data from PointLogic, the average total supply of natural gas rose by 1 percent compared with the previous week. Dry natural gas production remained flat week over week. Average net imports from Canada increased by 10 percent from last week, likely in response to cold winter weather.

Pizza company stocks
Domino's declined between the open of trading last week when the price was $163.10 to the close of trading Friday, when the price paid for Domino's stock was $160.04. Smaller Papa Murphy's followed suit, dropping a bit in value over the week to close at $4.55 Friday, after a $4.67 start the previous Monday morning. 

Pizza Hut parent, Yum Brands, remained essentially flat on the week — gaining just two cents from opening to closing bell. On Friday, trading stopped when the stock stood at $64.25 for Yum. Papa John's, however, took a nice bounce last week, closing at $89.17 Friday, which was up nearly $2 from the opening price on Monday of $87.22. 

Photo: iStock

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Equipment & Supplies, Financial News, Food & Beverage, Food Cost Management

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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