Natural gas prices reach 18-month high
Natural gas spot and futures prices reached 18-month record highs during the last month of March.
Also, Chuck E. Cheese's parent company hit a new 52-year high on the stock market; its first in about a year. The boost comes on the heels of the company's new mobile app, which includes an augmented reality feature. The company's first-ever downloadable app, Say Cheese!, is available from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Using augmented reality, the app allows parents and kids to take photos with an animated version of Chuck E. Cheese on any visit to the chain.
Chuck E. Cheese's team began researching and developing the app to be a new in-store attraction that enhanced guests' experience.
Average block cheese prices averaged $1.69 on the Chicago Mercantile, a 4-cent jump from $1.65 the week prior and up 12 cents from earlier last month.
Cheese remains significantly lower than the $2.10 average toward the end of the year.
Cheese markets closed at $1.69 Monday through Thursday. The market was closed Friday for the Good Friday and Easter holidays.
Wheat prices rose slightly to $8.02 last week on the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, from $8 the week prior. In March, wheat dropped below $8 ($7.96) for the first time in months.
Wheat averaged $9.13 at the end of 2012. Prices during the mid-summer 2012 averaged $7.49, before the drought kicked in.
Last week, wheat closed at $8.05 Monday, $8.10 Tuesday, $8.13 Wednesday and $7.80 on Thursday.
Gasoline and diesel fuel
After months on an upswing, gas prices slid downward for the fourth week in a row. Today's nationwide average for regular unleaded fuel is $3.63, a 3-cent drop from last week's $3.66.
According to the AAA and the Oil Price Information Service, prices a month ago were $3.75. Last year at this time, consumers were paying $3.92 at the pump.
Today's mid-range unleaded is $3.80, from $3.83 last week. Premium gas is $3.95, from $3.99 last week.
Diesel fuel prices averaged $4.00, down from $4.02 last week. The price of diesel fuel is also down from $4.13 last month and from $4.16 a year ago.
Both spot and futures prices reached 18-month record highs during this report week (March 20 –March 27). The Henry Hub spot price rose from $3.96 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) March 20 to $4.08 per MMBtu March 27, its highest level since September 2011. Price changes were mixed, and mostly small, with the exception of large declines in the Northeast United States.
At the NYMEX, futures contracts made gains similar to the Henry Hub price. The April 2013 NYMEX natural gas contract expired March 26, just under $4 per MMBtu. The May 2013 contract moved into the near-month slot and ended trading March 27 at $4.068 per MMBtu.
Pizza company stocks
Shares of Pizza Hut parent Yum! Brands Inc. closed last week at $71.32, up from $69.46 the week prior, as the stock market hit a new all-time high to close out Q1. The company's 52-week low was in early February of $59.68. The company's 52-week high was $74.75 in November.
Domino's closed last Friday at $51.18, up from $50.84 the week prior. DPZ is riding a strong Q4 earnings report which led to a fresh 52-week-high of $51.67 last week. Shares in June were traded at $28.17.
Papa John's closed last week at $61.01, down slightly from $61.09 the Friday prior, but up more than $10 from early March. PZZA also turned in a new 52-week high on March 26 at $62.32. The company hit its 52-week low of $36.56 a year ago.
CEC Entertainment Inc., parent company of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, closed out last week at $39.36, up big from $32.50 the week prior after the company announced its new mobile app with augmented reality features. The $39.36 close also marks a new 52-week high for CEC, its first in nearly a year. The company's 52-week low was in August at $28.23.
Pizza Inn closed out last week at $4.22, up from $3.81 the week prior. PZZI hit its 52-week high of $4.88 a year ago and traded as low as $2.18 in June.
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Alicia Kelso Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.