The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing business activity composite index was 53.9 in December, down from 54.1 in November, on a seasonally adjusted basis, the group said Friday.Economists polled by IFR Markets had expected a 53.8 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 72.7 from 76.5. The employment index increased to 52.1 from 50.8.The new orders index was at 53.5, up from 51.1; backlog of orders gained to 49.0 from 48.5; new export orders stand at 50.0, down from 55.5; inventories remained at 50.5; inventory sentiment rose to 64.5 from 61.5; the supplier deliveries index increased to 52.5 from 51.5, and imports rose to 50.5 from 49.5.“Non-manufacturing business activity increased for the 57th consecutive month in December,” said Anthony Nieves, chair of the ISM’s non-manufacturing business survey committee. “The business activity index decreased 0.2 percentage point to 53.9% for the month of December. The new orders index increased to 53.5% and the employment index increased to 52.1%. The prices index decreased to 72.7% in December. Five non-manufacturing industries reported increased activity in December. Members’ comments in December vary by industry segment and remain concerned about the economy. The overall indication in December is continued economic growth in the non-manufacturing sector, but at a slightly slower pace than in November.”

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