Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Services Crater

If you're wondering why the market is tanking again, this is it.

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. service industries unexpectedly shrank in January at the fastest pace since the last recession as the housing slump deepened and consumer spending cooled.

The Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing index, which reflects almost 90 percent of the economy, fell to 41.9, the lowest since October 2001, from 54.4 the prior month, the Tempe, Arizona-based ISM said. A reading of 50 is the dividing line between growth and contraction.

``This is a stunning fall,'' said Michael Moran, chief economist at Daiwa Securities America Inc. in New York. ``If accurate, it's dire news on the economy.''

The worst housing slump in a quarter-century is spreading throughout the economy, hurting businesses such as builders, retailers, wholesalers and mortgage lenders. The report adds to concern Americans are spending less as job losses mount, raising the risk the economy may tip into a recession, economists said.

The data was released an hour early "because of concerns about a possible 'breach'."