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The pace of growth in the vast US services sector cooled more than forecast last month, hitting its weakest pace since October, further muddying the picture of how the economy performed in March.

The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing purchasing managers’ index fell to 55.2 in March, from 57.6 in the previous month. Wall Street expected a slimmer fall to 57.

“The majority of respondents’ comments indicate a positive outlook on business conditions and the overall economy. There were several comments about the uncertainty of future government policies on health care, trade and immigration, and the potential impact on business,” the report said.

While the reading remains well above the 50 lines that separates expansion from contraction, it marks the latest piece of data that suggests the pace of growth may be leveling off after climbing sharply over the past few months.

However, counterbalancing that, was a strong report on private-sector employment that was released earlier in the morning, and prompted numerous investment houses to up their expectations for Friday’s more closely watched monthly payroll report.

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