UK services growth picks up in January
The UK's service sector expanded faster than expected in January after a relatively slow pace of growth in December, a survey has suggested.
The purchasing managers' index from Markit/CIPS rose to 57.2 in January compared with December's reading of 55.8, which was a 17-month low.
A figure above 50 indicates expansion.
Markit chief economist Chris Williamson said the survey indicates "a reassuringly robust start to the year for the UK economy".
"The data will allay fears that the economy is slowing sharply, having merely seen growth cool during the winter to a more sustainable pace."
The services sector saw an "impressive rate" of jobs creation, at around 70,000 per month, Mr Williamson said.
Prices paid by services companies for goods and energy rose at the slowest pace since June 2009, Markit said.
Sharp falls in the price of fuel - driven down by oil prices more than halving over the past six months - led to cuts in operating costs at many companies, it added.
Earlier this week, Markit's survey of UK manufacturing suggested that the sector grew slightly faster in January thanks in part to a modest recovery in export orders.
Meanwhile UK construction rebounded unexpectedly from a sharp downturn last month, boosted by a surge in housebuilding activity.
"It's been a very good week for UK data so far, with all three PMI indices now showing a rebound from weakness in December," said David Tinsley, an economist at UBS.
He added the figures suggest that "if there is some cooling in the pace of UK growth it is really fairly marginal, and the economy is continuing to perform well".