United Kingdom service sector growth eases in Jan, optimism at 1½-year high

United Kingdom service sector growth eases in Jan, optimism at 1½-year high”

Growth in Italy's services sector sped up a notch in January, a survey showed on Friday, signalling modest expansion in the euro zone's most chronically sluggish economy.

The Investec Services Purchasing Managers' Index improved to 61.0 in January from 59.1 in December, returning above the 60-mark where it had nearly exclusively sat for three years before Brexit temporarily dented confidence.

The Markit/CIPS services purchasing managers' index (PMI) dropped to 54.5 from December's 15-month high of 56.2, just below its long-run average and at the bottom end of a range of forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists.

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Based on Markit's combined surveys - covering manufacturing, services and construction - United Kingdom economic growth is running at a quarterly pace of about 0.5 percent, it said. The latest reading is comparable to GDP rising at a quarterly rate of 0.4%, indicating that the economy is starting 2017 on a solid footing.

The pace of growth in new business for companies from bars to banks was the slowest in three months, dipping to 52.7 from 53.5 in December.

"With jobs being created at the fastest rate since the global financial crisis, it certainly seems that companies are looking to expand and are not overly concerned about how business might be affected by political uncertainty", said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

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Service providers remained optimistic last month and increased headcount at the fastest rate since July.

Howard Archer, chief United Kingdom and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said: 'Services have been the key United Kingdom growth driver along with consumer spending, and January survey evidence for both has been softer. That would compare with an official estimate that GDP expanded 0.6% in the final quarter of 2016.

The increase was driven by a 0.8% rise from the services sector between October and December thanks to robust consumer spending.

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