Growth in New Zealand's services sector, which accounts for about two-thirds of the economy, eased last month, echoing a slowdown in the pace of manufacturing.

The BNZ-BusinessNZ performance of services index fell 1.9 points to a seasonally adjusted 54.8 last month - the lowest level of expansion since November 2014.

All of the five sub-indices were above the 50 reading that separates contraction from expansion.

"When the data is smoothed, it becomes clear over the last few months that momentum in the PSI has slowed since a high point late last year," said BNZ senior economist Craig Ebert. "Yet it's far from being slow as March is still running above the historical average of 53.9."


The PSI comes after its sister survey, the performance of manufacturing index, showed a second month of slowing industrial production activity leading to a five-month low, while also remaining above its long-term average. The performance of composite index, which combines the two measures, dropped 1.7 points to 54.8 on the GDP-weighted basic, and shed 1.9 points to 55.0 on a free-weighted basis.

While all five sub-indices were positive in March, that expansion slowed across the board. New orders/business and stocks/inventories fell 3.9 points to 57 and 2.3 points to 52.9 respectively. Supplier deliveries dropped 2.1 points to 51.3, employment shed 0.6 of a point to 53, and activity/sales edged down 0.4 of a point to 59.6.

BNZ's Ebert said weakness in inventories didn't seem to be preparation for weak demand as the new orders component had remained solid at 57. "The PSI's employment index largely repeated its February positivity, with a result of 53.0," Ebert said.