DUBLIN Feb 3 Ireland's services sector last month grew at its fastest pace since Britain's vote to leave the European Union in June, as stronger demand from its larger neighbour boosted new business, a survey showed on Friday.
Ireland is widely considered the European Union economy most at risk from its key trading partner's decision to quit the bloc, and growth slowed in both the services and manufacturing sectors after the surprise referendum result.
The Investec Services Purchasing Managers' Index improved to 61.0 in January from 59.1 in December, returning above the 60-mark where it had almost exclusively sat for three years before Brexit temporarily dented confidence.
The sector has not fallen below the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction since June 2012, when Ireland was halfway through a three-year international bailout. The economy has since recovered to be the best performing in the EU.
The further strengthening in January was driven by a jump in new business among firms from banks to hotels. The sub-index rose to a one-year high of 62.6 from 59.8 a month earlier.
A survey of the manufacturing sector this week painted a similar picture as growth remained strong in January thanks to new orders expanding at the fastest pace in 18 months.
"When all of the above is taken together with this week's Manufacturing PMI release, it is clear that 2017 has gotten off to a bright start for much of the private sector in Ireland," Investec Ireland chief economist Philip O'Sullivan said.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by John Stonestreet)