US services index slips on sharp fall in orders

January 7, 2014 

U.S. service companies expanded at a steady but slightly slower pace in December as sales dipped and new orders plunged to a four-year low. The report suggests economic growth may remain modest in the coming months.

The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its service-sector index fell to 53 last month, down from 53.9 in November. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

A measure of new orders plummeted 7 points to 49.4, the first time it has dropped below 50 since July 2009. A gauge of business stockpiles also fell sharply. But a gauge of hiring increased 3.3 points to 55.8, evidence that services firms are adding more jobs.

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