SLIGHT SLOWDOWN: Growth at U. S. service companies slowed a bit in January behind weaker new orders and business activity. The Institute for Supply Management said Tuesday that its index of non-manufacturing activity dipped to 55.2 from 55.7 in December, which was the highest in nearly a year.

STEADY GROWTH: The slight decline from December's strong reading suggests that services firms were not greatly hampered by a Jan. 1 increase in Social Security taxes. The report follows a sharp jump in the Institute's January manufacturing index released last week.

HELP STILL WANTED: Hiring in services improved, a bright sign for the economy.


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