The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing business activity composite index was 49.3 in February, up from 44.6 in January, on a seasonally adjusted basis, the group said yesterday.

Economists polled by IFR Markets had expected a 47.5 level.

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

The prices paid index, closely watched for signs of inflation, dipped to 67.9 from 70.7.

The employment index increased to 46.9 from 43.9.

The new orders index was at 49.6, up from 43.5; backlog of orders gained to 49.5 from 46.0; new export orders stand at 46.5, down from 52.0; inventories improved to 50.0 from 44.5; inventory sentiment grew to 60.5 from 57.0; the supplier deliveries index increased to 50.0 from 49.0 last month, and imports soared to 49.0 from 41.5.

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