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Irish services firms keep up rapid expansion in Sept -PMI

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FILE PHOTO: Offices in the Central Bank of Ireland are seen in the financial district in Dublin

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Activity in Ireland's service sector was unchanged in September from the previous month as a sharp post-lockdown rebound levelled off, but growth in the quarter is still likely to be the strongest for 15 years, a survey found on Tuesday.

The AIB IHS Markit Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) remained at 63.7 last month. It has been above 60 for five consecutive months after falling as low as 36.2 in January, when the economy was back in a COVID-19 lockdown that has now been almost fully unwound.

A reading above 50 indicates an overall increase in activity compared to the previous month.

Ireland's finance ministry last week doubled its forecast for economic growth and for expansion in domestic demand this year, citing a much stronger than expected recovery from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tuesday's survey showed that cost pressures in the sector reached their highest level since December 2000, however, after rising a touch on August and for the seventh time in eight months.

The costs continued to be passed on to customers at one of the strongest rates in the PMI's 21-year history, albeit one that eased since August.

"The continuing very high Irish PMI readings contrasts with the easing trend seen in other European countries. This may reflect that restrictions started to be eased here at a later stage," AIB chief economist Oliver Mangan said.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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