Irish services sector grows in April


Ireland's services sector grew for the third straight month in April, but business expectations slipped and prices achieved fell at their fastest rate in four months.

The NCB Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), which measures activity in the services sector, increased to 52.2 in April from 52.1, above the 50 mark that signals growth for the third month in a row and the euro zone's flash services PMI which came in at a 5-month low of 47.9 last week.

The services sector slumped to a 12-month low in January but economic data since then has shown activity returning to levels seen early last year when the economy was expanding. Ireland returned to recession in the final three months of 2011.

Growth in Irish manufacturing almost ground to a halt in March, a separate poll showed on Tuesday, with levels of activity in the sector well below an average of 56.0 in the first four months of 2011. Of the service sector respondents, 26 per cent said they had seen a rise in activity during the month, against 19 per cent who posted a fall. But business confidence slipped to the lowest level in three months, falling to 64.1 from 70.4.

Most respondents remained optimistic of a recovery helped by a pick-up in Ireland and the euro zone and growth in new exports, the survey authors said. New export orders increased, buoyed by rising spending on marketing, but the rate of growth eased marginally to the weakest in three months.

One-quarter of panellists recorded growth of new export orders in April, compared with just 9 per cent that recorded a contraction.

Employment was unchanged after increasing in March for the first time in 11 months. Prices charged at Irish services companies decreased in April at the fastest clip since December.