05 April 2005 | Gareth Mytton
UK services companies enjoyed faster growth in March than the month before, according to the latest purchasing managers' index (PMI).
The services sector business activity index, a composite indicator of sector conditions compiled by CIPS and NTC Research, rose to 57, from 55.1 in March, to complete two years of unbroken growth. A 50 figure indicates no change on the previous month.
Robust demand from businesses and consumers fuelled an increase in the new orders and employment indices, amid reports that acquisitions and new business units had helped to secure more contracts.
More than a fifth of business said running costs had risen, as input price inflation remained largely unchanged on February's rate. The hotels and restaurants sector suffered the sharpest increase, but prices were up in all sectors of the services economy.
In the euro-zone, services trade grew at the same rate as in February. NTC Research put the business activity index at 53.
But growth accelerated in the US's non-manufacturing economy. The Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) report on business recorded a PMI of 63.1, a rise of 3.3 on February's figure.
• Coverage of previous months' manufacturing, construction and services PMI reports is available at http://www.supplymanagement.com/pmi
• More information on the UK and euro-zone PMIs is available at www.ntc-research.com
• The full text of the ISM reports on the US non-manufacturing economy for March and previous months is available at http://www.ism.ws/ISMReport/index.cfm.