Companies in the U.S. service sector such as retail and real estate grew at a slower but still-healthy pace in December, according to survey of senior executives. The Institute for Supply Management said its nonmanufacturing index fell to 56.2% from 59.3% in November. Yet readings over 50% signal that more businesses are expanding instead of contracting and the index is coming off a nine-year high. The survey is compiled from a questionnaire of executives who buy supplies for their companies and it tends to rise in fall in tandem with the broader economy. The new orders index slipped 2.5 points to 58.9% while employment edged down 0.7 points to 56%.
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