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Irish services returned to slight growth on eve of new lockdown - PMI

·1-min read
A man walks past offices in the Irish Financial Services Centre in Dublin

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish services activity expanded by the thinnest of margins in December after parts of the sector were allowed to reopen early in the month, a brief respite before being shut down again last week, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The AIB IHS Markit Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) forservices rose to 50.1 from 45.4 in November, only the third time it has crossed the 50-mark separating expansion from contraction since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March.

The index hit a record low of 13.9 in April when the economy was under a stricter lockdown. All shops and large parts of the hospitality sector were allowed to reopen last month but many have closed again as curbs were reimposed in recent days.

Three out of the four sub-sectors monitored registered growth of business activity in December, led by a 10-month high of 53.3 in financial services.

Transport, tourism and leisure registered another sharp decline in activity, but at 43.8, the survey's authors said it was the softest contraction in four months.

While the new restrictions that impact many firms in that category are due to last until at least the end of January, ministers have warned firms to prepare for the possibility that they stay until early March as new COVID-19 infections surge.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Catherine Evans)