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Service Providers Report Slightly Slower Growth In December

Growth slowed down for new orders, business activity, employment and prices at service-oriented businesses in December, according to the ISM non-manufacturing survey, which was released this morning.

The overall index dropped 3.1 percentage points to 56.2 percent, where a reading above 50 suggests growth.

But with 50 percent as neutral, even after seeing a one-month drop, the number is still pretty healthy, said Bob Hughes, senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research. Manufacturing businesses reported a similar drop last week.

“Even though we saw a decline in the indexes, they’re coming down from very high levels,” Hughes said. “There’s a lot of positive sentiment, a lot of positive activity.”

Monday’s report from auto manufacturers showed additional evidence of that sentiment. At 16.9 million auto sales for December, and an annual level that’s the highest since 2006, “The consumer is feeling pretty good if they’re willing to buy that many automobiles,” Hughes said.

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