* Euro zone services PMI dips to six-month low in September
* Japan, Australian cbank policy moves surprise markets
* Indian, Chinese PMIs hit lowest in several months
* British PMI rises, but new orders show weakness ahead
(Adds market reaction, details, comment)
By Andy Bruce
LONDON, Oct 5 Growth slowed among Chinese and euro zone services firms in September, surveys showed on Tuesday, with Ireland and Spain tipping back into decline and Asia's emerging powerhouses continuing to outstrip Europe.
Central banks added to unease about the global recovery with Japan returning to a zero percent interest rate policy and Australia surprising markets by refraining from a rate hike.
Strong growth readings, albeit a little slower, from Germany and France prevented the broader euro zone purchasing managers index (PMI) from dropping too far last month, balancing out contraction in the service sector firms that dominate the struggling Irish and Spanish economies.
PMIs showed Chinese and Indian private firms expanding at their slowest rate in many months, although at a rate still faster than their European peers.
British companies bucked a slowing trend, although its survey showed poor new orders signalling weaker times ahead.
While the latest batch of PMI surveys added to evidence that the global economic recovery is cooling and not ending, central bankers in Japan unveiled a slew of new measures to boost a domestic economy stuck in the stranglehold of a strong currency.
The Bank of Japan reinstated an interest rate target range of zero-to-0.1 percent, last seen in 2006, and pledged to buy 5 trillion yen ($60 billion) worth of assets to inject the economy with fresh funds. [ID:nTOE69305D]
"It was an utterly surprising and bold move. The BOJ has sent a favourable message to the markets, which had been expecting it to take only small, gradual steps," said Seiji Shiraishi, chief economist at HSBC Securities Japan.
The move followed comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Monday that asset purchases had lowered borrowing costs and helped the economy, and more buying could further ease financial conditions. [ID:nN04133934]
Financial markets expect the Fed to embark upon another round of asset buying to bolster a sluggish recovery as early as its November meeting, but policy-makers remain divided about the effectiveness of further purchases.
The Reserve Bank of Australia confounded market expectations by opting to keep its key cash rate at 4.5 percent but its governor, Glenn Stevens, said higher rates will be required at some point to meet its medium-term inflation target and analysts said a November hike looked almost certain. [ID:nSGE69401B]
CHINA SLOWER BUT OUTSTRIPS EUROPE
The HSBC China services PMI fell to a 19-month low in September of 55.2 from 57.6 August, still strongly above the 50-mark which separates growth from contraction.
For China, manufacturing remains paramount and its industry PMI rose strongly last week. [ID:nTOE692006]
Weakness in incoming business drove the PMI in rival emerging market India down to a 10-month low of 55.6 from 59.3 the previous month.
"India's service industry is stepping off the throttle. Along with the manufacturing sector, growth is slowing, although the expansion continues," said Frederic Neumann, Co-head of Asian economics research at HSBC.
Despite slowing, both the Indian and Chinese PMIs showed a rate of growth exceeding European rivals.
The final Markit Eurozone Services PMI for September, which fell to a six-month low of 54.1 from 55.9 in August, showed a lopsided euro zone economy heavily reliant on German and French prosperity. [ID:nnSLA4LE6EQ]
Click here for a graphic showing a comparison of PMIS
The service sector in Ireland, whose government last week revealed a spiralling of its banking sector bailout, contracted for the first time in six months thanks to a sharp drop in new orders.
Moody's ratings agency said on Tuesday it may cut Ireland credit grade again, citing the weakness of domestic demand just as the government prepares a new round of harsh budget cuts to mend its bailout-burdened accounts. [ID:nnLDE6940AV]
Spain, also in rating agencies' crosshairs, saw its service sector recede at a faster pace in September as it too prepares for more austerity and years of high unemployment.
Not all of the PMIs showed a gloomy picture. France and Germany saw growth slow but to levels still stronger than other euro zone countries, with French businesses sounding their most optimistic in more than six years.
And in Britain, the headline PMI unexpectedly rose to 52.8 from 51.3, although it showed the weakest inflow of new business in more than a year. [ID:nSLA4LE6EM]
"Today's survey at least provides some reassurance that the economy is not plunging head-first into a renewed contraction," said Capital Economics' Vicky Redwood.
Recent anecdotal evidence from some of Europe's biggest firms still suggests a cautiously upbeat tone, although Europe increasingly relies on demand from emerging economies.
Tesco (TESO.O), the world's third-biggest retailer, said it believed the global economy was recovering strongly and growth in emerging markets would help to prevent developed economies from falling back into recession. [ID:nLDE6930F0]
Europe's largest travel firm TUI Travel TT.L said bookings for winter and summer were doing well although that was largely thanks to picking up more customers following the failure of several smaller operators. [ID:nLDE6931JX] (Additional reporting by David Milliken in London, Alex Richardson in Singapore, Wayne Cole in Sydney, and Leika Kihara and Rie Ishiguro in Tokyo, editing by Mike Peacock)