Non-manufacturing business activity in January contracted for the first time since March 2003, according to the Institute of Supply Management's monthly report on business. The non-manufacturing index came in at 44.6%, while the business activity/production index dropped to 41.9, from 54.4. A reading below 50 indicates contraction. Economists were expecting a reading in the range of 52.4%.
New orders were hit hard, falling to 43.5, from a 53.9 reading in December. Employment, imports, and inventories, expanding just one month ago, contracted significantly as well, well into the low 40s.
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