Service Sector Growth Slows in December

The pace of growth in the U.S. services sector slowed for a second straight month in December with business activity expanding at a lower rate and new orders contracting, according to an industry report released on Monday.

The Institute for Supply Management said its services index fell to 53 last month from 53.9 in November. The reading was below expectations for a reading of 54.5, according to a Reuters survey of economists, and the lowest reading for the index since June 2013.

With a reading above 50 indicating expansion, December marked the 48th straight month of growth in the services sector.

The gauge of business activity dipped to 55.2 from 55.5, the weakest reading for the subindex since September and below expectations for a reading of 56.5.

The read on new orders showed contraction for the first time since July 2009 as it fell below the 50 mark. It dropped to 49.4 in December from 56.4, the lowest reading for new orders since May 2009.

On a positive note, the employment gauge rose to 55.8 from 52.5 in November.