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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.

Revenue reports Thursday from retailers from Costco to Victoria's Secret extend the streak of strong spending from late last year and suggest that an improving economy and recent job growth are outweighing pressure from higher pump prices.

Retailers collectively saw a 2 percent increase over last March, the International Council of Shopping Centers said. That compares with expectations for flat revenue or a small decline.

The increase is better than it looks because this year's late Easter depressed results by 3 to 5 percentage points, analysts say.

Many stores reported revenue gains that handily beat Wall Street expectations. Target Corp. reported a smaller decline than Wall Street expected.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

$800 million financing eyed through toll deal

DUBAI | Dubai's finance department says it aims to line up $800 million in bank financing by relying on revenue from road tolls in the Persian Gulf emirate.

The funds will go toward infrastructure projects for the city-state's Roads and Transport Authority. The six-year deal would give Dubai cash upfront in exchange for future receipts from its Salik highway toll system.

The Commercial Bank of Dubai, Citibank, Dubai Islamic Bank and Emirates NBD are leading the financing effort.

Dubai has been overhauling its finances and restructuring billions of dollars in debt after a credit crisis that began more than a year and a half ago. The emirate and its state-backed companies shoulder more than $100 billion in debt.

INTERNET

Facebook to share design of its servers

PALO ALTO, Calif. | Facebook is sharing the technology behind the servers that power its massive online social network. The company wants to share the specifications and design documents to help others build and power startups more efficiently, and to foster innovation so that it can benefit from others' improvements, too.

Data centers are the backbone of Internet services such as Facebook. They store and transmit users' billions of status updates, links, photos and all the outside apps they use. After renting out space in data centers in California and Virginia, Facebook recently built its first own data center in Prineville, Ore.

Facebook says it already working with manufacturers, including Dell Inc., that are building servers based on its design. Some servers are already available.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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