Exports orders fall for first time this year on wary outlook
EXPORTS and new business in the services sector declined last month but managers were more confident than they had been in June, according to the latest NCB Services Purchasing Managers' Index.
Overall, the index fell but remained above the crucial 50 mark that divides growth from contraction.
However, a similar survey of purchasing managers -- which measures sentiment in industry -- published earlier this week was much gloomier.
Among the surprises contained in yesterday's survey was the news that export orders have fallen for the first time this year. Economists repeatedly point to exports as the one bright light in the Irish economy.
The index slipped to 51.7 in July from 52.4 the previous month but both new business generally and new export business contracted in July with NCB saying that fragile confidence was causing clients to delay purchasing decisions.
Other interesting results suggested employment in the sector slid for the third month as workloads fell. Aside from a slight rise in April, staffing levels have decreased every month since March 2008.
Elsewhere in Europe, growth in the service sector eased to its weakest rate in nearly two years in July as backlogs of work fell for the first time since late last year.
The Markit Eurozone Services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell from 53.7 in June to 51.6 last month -- the lowest level since September 2009.
"The base of the slowdown is worrisome, with signs of fragility exhibited in all of the nations surveyed," said Rob Dobson, senior economist at data provider Markit.
"The big two of Germany and France have lost substantial growth momentum since the start of the year, conditions remain muted in Ireland, while Spain and Italy are both in contraction territory."
Germany grew at its slowest pace since January 2010.