The U.S. services sector expanded at a slightly slower pace in November as the non-manufacturing business activity composite index was 53.9 in the month, compared to 55.4 in October, on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Institute for Supply Management reported Wednesday.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had expected a 55.1 level.

An index reading below 50 signals a slowing economy, while a level above 50 suggests expansion.

The prices paid index slid to 52.2 from 56.1.

The employment index declined to 52.5 from 56.2.

The business activity/production index fell to 55.5 from 59.7, the new orders index was at 56.4, down from 56.8; backlog of orders dipped to 49.0 from 50.0; new export orders grew to 58.0 from 53.0; inventories slipped to 54.0 from 54.5; inventory sentiment fell to 60.5 from 62.5; the supplier deliveries index increased to 51.0 from 49.0; and imports held at 55.0.

Members' general comments on business in the month included:

"Optimistic fourth quarter in sight." (Information)

"Slight slowdown in occupancy." (Accommodation & Food Services)

"Things are improving very slowly." (Finance & Insurance)

"Business is steady at this time, with little fluctuation from last month." (Health Care & Social Assistance)

"Regulatory uncertainty is having an effect on consumers who are spending, but not aggressively." (Retail Trade)

"Business remains steady, with gains in new orders and projections into 2014." (Professional, Scientific & Technical Services)

"We are clearly seeing a pickup in activity, which began in August." (Wholesale Trade)

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