US services sector slips in January: ISM

The US services sector slowed a bit in January, as business activity, new orders and order backlogs all slipped, the Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday.

The ISM's nonmanufacturing sector purchasing managers index fell to 55.2 from 55.7 in December, with the December index having also been revised downward from the initial estimate of 56.1.

The ISM said survey respondents' comments about the economy and business conditions were mixed.

"However, the majority of respondents are optimistic about the overall direction," it said.

The slower business activity was partly offset by a rise in prices and new export orders.

The revision downward for December paralleled the government's initial estimate released last week that economic growth actually contracted 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter.

"Business is slightly softer than this time last year, but there are a lot of projects on the horizon which gives us confidence," one representative of the wholesale trade told ISM.

"Sales are up slightly compared to this same period last year. This is offset by slight increases in costs for personnel benefits, fuel and other operating costs," said another in public administration.