Nonmanufacturing Activity Expands at Slowest Pace Since October

American service companies expanded in March at the slowest pace in five months, adding to signs of tepid economic growth in the first quarter, a survey by the Institute for Supply Management has found.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of non-manufacturing activity fell to 55.2 from 57.6 in February. The index in February had been at its highest level since October 2015. It has signaled overall expansion for 87 consecutive months, since the beginning of 2010.

The March reading was below expectations of 57.0 from a Reuters poll of 64 economists.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the service sector and a reading below 50 indicates contraction.

The business activity index fell to 58.9 from 63.6 the month before. That was below expectations of 61.5. The employment index fell to 51.6 from 55.2 a month earlier. New orders dropped to 58.9 from 61.2. The prices paid index

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