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US services sector activity rises in February: Markit

[NEW YORK] Growth in the US services sector accelerated modestly in February, lifted by improvements in new business, an industry report showed on Wednesday.

Financial data firm Markit said the final reading of its Purchasing Managers Index for the services sector rose to 57.1 in February, its highest level since October. The reading was roughly even with the preliminary read of 57.0 but up from the 54.2 recorded in January.

A reading above 50 separates expansion from contraction.

The new business subindex jumped to 57.1 from January's read of 51.7, the index's lowest reading in the history of the Markit services sector series, which dates from October 2009. The final number was also up from the preliminary read of 56.7.

"Business picked up especially towards the end of the month, when the impact of bad weather on the East Coast and port delays on the West Coast began to clear, which suggests this may be a temporary upturn," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.

Mr Williamson said the current pace of expansion would not lead the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates "anytime soon."

"However, the ongoing resilience of the US economy, and in particular the sustained robust job creation signalled in February, adds to the sense that policymakers will continue to prepare the ground for a rate rise later this year."

The employment subindex rose from January but was down from February's preliminary reading.

Markit's composite PMI, a weighted average of its manufacturing and services indexes, rose to 57.2 in February from 54.4 in January. The preliminary February read was 56.8.