USA services firms grow at slowest pace in five months

Reuters

Reuters

It was the seventh consecutive month of industrial expansion, though slowing a bit from February when the index was at its highest.

The massive United States services sector cooled in March after a strong February, the Institute for Supply Management said on Wednesday (Apr 5).

The March reading was below expectations of 57.0 from a Reuters poll of 64 economists.

The U.S. economy's manufacturing sector expanded in March but at a slower pace than the previous month, according to an earlier ISM report.

A report from energy services firm Baker Hughes on Friday showed US drillers added 137 rigs in the first quarter, the most since the second quarter of 2011.

15 of the 18 industrial reported growth for March while three reported a contraction, including professional, scientific and technical services. That still represents a robust pace of growth for America's factories and demonstrates momentum in an industry that struggled for the better part of the last two years.

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"The U.S. economic expansion remains on solid footing even taking into a account what is likely to be a pretty lackluster first-quarter growth profile", said Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Markets in NY.

Non-manufacturing employment grew for the 37 consecutive month. President Donald Trump on Friday touted a National Association of Manufacturers survey showing that optimism among members was at a 20-year high.

The recent pickup in manufacturing has been a bright spot for the USA economy during a first quarter otherwise marked by tepid gains in household spending, the biggest part of gross domestic product. Gross domestic product increased at a 2.1 percent pace in the fourth quarter.

The ISM's prices index rose 2.5 percentage points in February to 70.5, the highest reading since May 2011, indicating higher raw materials prices for the 13th straight month.

In February, private construction spending rose 0.8 percent to its highest level since May 2006 after being unchanged in January.

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