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U.S. Service Industries Expand at Slowest Pace in Nine Months

Growth at U.S. service providers slowed to a nine-month low in February as companies grappled with logistical challenges and rising prices at the same time a stretch of severe winter weather gripped much of the nation.

The Institute for Supply Management’s services index fell to 55.3 during the month from an almost two-year high of 58.7 in January, according to data released Wednesday. Readings above 50 signal growth and the February figure was weaker than the most pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

The group’s measures of orders and business activity also plummeted to the lowest levels since May. While many service providers remain constrained by the pandemic, the setback in February included an arctic blast that disrupted supply chains, caused blackouts and impeded commerce in some areas.