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The UK's services sector, which accounts for around 75% of the economy, continued its strong growth at the start of 2016, according to a closely watched survey.

The Markit Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for the sector grew slightly from 55.5 in December to 55.6 in January. Any figure above 50 indicates growth.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said: "The three PMI surveys for January collectively point to a slight upturn in the rate of economic growth, consistent with GDP rising at a quarterly rate of 0.6% in the first quarter, up from 0.5% in the fourth quarter, if current levels are sustained.

Similar surveys from Markit released earlier this week painted a mixed picture of how the economy started 2016.

The construction sector slowed to its weakest growth in nine months, despite still reporting solid growth. And the manufacturing sector grew faster-than-expected.

Mr Williamson also warned that "cracks are beginning to appear in the country's resilience to the various headwinds". In January, Chancellor George Osborne warned that the UK faces a "cocktail" of economic risks in 2016.

Mr Williamson said: "Worries about a Chinese 'hard landing', financial market jitters, higher interest rates in the US, more austerity at home and the possibility of 'Brexit' and EU tensions have collectively pushed the business mood in the dominant service sector to its darkest for three years."