Irish factory activity rebounds in July from lockdown lows: PMI

(Reuters) - Irish service sector activity grew in July for the first time since the economy began to emerge from lockdown, but the relatively slow pace of its reopening meant it continued to lag the wider euro zone recovery, data showed on Thursday.

Ireland has opted for a more cautious easing of COVID-19 restrictions than some other parts of the bloc, and it delayed the fourth and final stage of its exit plan for a second time on Tuesday, keeping nightclubs and many pubs closed until at least the end of August.

The AIB IHS Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for services rose to 51.9 from 39.7 in June, returning above the 50 mark separating growth from contraction after sinking as low as 13.9 in April.

That was still some way below February’s pre-lockdown two-year high of 59.9, and the 55.1 and 56.6 readings in July for the euro zone and neighbouring Britain respectively.

In a note of caution, the Irish survey’s authors pointed to a further fall in the volume of incoming new sales, with firms supporting workloads by completing outstanding business.

Expectations for activity also stalled following a sharp rebound in June.

“New orders remained at subdued levels, while backlogs continued to decline. With demand still soft and spare capacity rising, firms continued to cut their workforces,” AIB Chief Economist Oliver Mangan said.

Reporting By Shri Navaratnam