Irish services sector expands faster in Dec as Brexit worries ease: PMI

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s services sector grew at the fastest pace in six months in December amid a burst of business confidence that a number of firms linked to reduced Brexit uncertainty, a survey showed on Monday.

A slowdown in manufacturing activity in the European Union’s fastest-growing economy had threatened to spread to the services sector in October as seven years of uninterrupted growth weakened to a near standstill.

However, the AIB IHS Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for services rebounded for a second successive month to 55.9 from 53.7 in November, comfortably above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction.

The recovery was driven by stronger domestic orders. The subindex measuring business expectations, which hit an eight-year low in September, shot up to a 17-month high of 70.3 last month from 66.4 a month earlier.

“Overall this report indicates that the Irish services sector finished 2019 in very good shape, despite the challenges posed by Brexit uncertainty and weakening global growth,” said Oliver Mangan, chief economist at AIB.

“Nonetheless, the rate of expansion in the services sector in 2019 as a whole, though impressive, was the slowest since 2012, indicating that external headwinds did dampen activity somewhat last year.”

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Hugh Lawson