U.S. Services Sector Hits Record Speed In March

By Agence France-Presse The massive U.S. services sector raced to a record production speed in March, expanding for the 12th straight month on a broad front, a survey showed April 5. The Tempe, Ariz.-based Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of non-manufacturing activity, based on a survey of top executives, leapt 5 percentage points from the previous month to 65.8%. Any figure above 50 points indicates an expansion in activity. The surge, which easily beat private economists' expectations, took the services sector index to the highest level since the ISM survey began in July 1997. "It is a very encouraging report, indicating that the economy is moving forward and upward," said Wells Fargo Banks chief economist Sung Won Sohn. Service sector firms added new jobs for the sixth straight month, the latest survey showed, with the employment index up 1.2 percentage points to 53.9%. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2004

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