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AIRLINES

Southwest: Repaired jets will fly by Saturday

DALLAS | Southwest Airlines Co. says four planes being repaired for cracks in their aluminum skin will likely return to service by Saturday.

Southwest said on Thursday that a fifth plane with cracks in the skin will be held back for additional, previously scheduled maintenance.

The airline grounded 79 of its older Boeing 737 aircraft for inspections after a hole opened in the roof of a similar plane over Arizona last week, forcing an emergency landing.

Southwest, which has more than 540 planes, said it was operating a normal schedule of about 3,400 flights on Thursday.

Boeing Co. gave Southwest instructions for repairing the cracked planes. The airline’s mechanics were replacing an 18-inch section of the roof on each, a job that takes one to two days.

OIL

Price of natural gas drops; crude jumps above $110

NEW YORK | The price of natural gas tumbled more than 2 percent Thursday after the government reported that U.S. supplies dropped less than expected.

Oil moved in the opposite direction, jumping above $110 per barrel for the first time since September 2008. That could raise concerns among U.S. drivers. They’re now paying an average of $3.73 per gallon at the pump, up more than 65 cents per gallon since January.

Oil and natural gas prices have seen different trends over the past two years. Oil, which is traded internationally, has climbed as China and other emerging economies increased world demand. Natural gas, however, is mostly geared toward domestic markets, and prices show an overall decline as a boom in production injected a hefty surplus into U.S. supplies.

RETAIL

Shoppers’ spending ‘strong’ in March

NEW YORK | Shoppers shrugged off higher gas prices and cool temperatures to give retailers a surprisingly solid March.

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