Growth stronger in US services sector: ISM

03-05-2012, 15h20

Growth strengthened in February in the crucial US services sector, underpinned by a pickup in orders that helped service providers raise prices, according to a closely watched index released Monday.

The Institute for Supply Management's services index rose to 57.3 percent from 56.8 in January, with the ISM's business activity subindex jumping to 62.6 from 59.5.

Measures of new orders and backlogged orders also grew, supporting a big jump in prices to 68.4 percent from 63.5 percent in January, the ISM said.

Out of 17 distinct services sectors, the three reporting business declines were significant: retail sales, health care, and company management and support services.

One respondent to the ISM monthly survey from the retail sector though was modestly upbeat: "Signs are building that things are starting to settle and business is stabilizing. Although orders aren't increasing rapidly, they are steady and consistent instead of the radical swings of the past two years."

The overall index was well above the 12-month low of 52.6 percent hit in September. Anything above 50 means the sector is growing.