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US services sector activity growth slowest since Feb: Markit

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The US services sector expanded in December at its slowest rate since February as growth in new business and employment declined, an industry report showed on Tuesday.

[NEW YORK] The US services sector expanded in December at its slowest rate since February as growth in new business and employment declined, an industry report showed on Tuesday.

Financial data firm Markit said the final reading of its Purchasing Managers Index for the service sector was 53.3 in December, down from its "flash" reading of 53.6 and November's reading of 56.2.

Growth in the sector has slowed since the index hit a peak of 61 in June, though December's reading is still higher than the 50 level that separates expansion from contraction.

"The pace of growth has now slowed for six consecutive months," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.

"The PMI surveys act as good leading indicators of GDP data, and suggest that the pace of US economic growth will have slowed in the fourth quarter."

The new business subindex fell to 52.9, the lowest reading since September 2012 and down from 55.8 in November.

Markit's composite PMI, a weighted average of its manufacturing and services indexes, fell to 53.5 in December from a flash reading of 53.8 and 56.1 in November.