Ireland's services sector expanded at its slowest pace in more than a year in December, a survey showed on Friday, although new orders, particularly from abroad, ticked up in a sign of continuing underlying strength.
Data on Wednesday showed euro zone manufacturing activity barely expanded at the end of 2018, suggesting little cause for optimism in the new year. Irish manufacturing growth also slowed but was still among the bloc's best performers.
The IHS Markit Services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), which last fell below the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction in 2012, slipped to 56.3 from 57.1 in December, its lowest level since November 2017.
New order growth strengthened a touch, however, driven by a jump in the sub-index measuring new export business to 55.3 from 53.9 a month earlier.
The Irish economy is on track to have posted the fastest growth in the European Union for the fifth year in a row in 2018, but is being monitored closely for any strain from the potential for an unruly exit from the bloc by neighbouring Britain.
Amritpal Virdee, Economist at IHS Markit, said underlying business activity remained robust.
"As such, the PMI data suggests a solid rate of growth in the Irish economy as we enter 2019, though at a slower pace." (Reuters)