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Services sector contracts for first time in four months

THE SERVICES sector contracted for the first time in four months in May, according to new figures.

The NCB Services Purchasing Managers index fell to 48.9 last month – from 52.2 in April as new orders dried up amidst weak client confidence.

Any figure below 50 signals contraction.

NCB said that activity in the financial sector was particularly fragile, although not unexpected given the eurozone crisis.

''Irish economic activity continues to fluctuate between expansion and contraction as the open nature of the Irish economy leaves it exposed to the economic climate abroad, which has once gained weakened,'' said NCB's chief economist Brian Devine.

Service providers lowered employment a little last month after no change in April.

Where jobs are lost, NCB said this was linked to a lack of growth in new business.

Looking forward, more than 44pc of respondents predicted that activity will be higher in 12 months time than current levels, compared with around 16pc that predicted a fall.