By Jonathan Davies

The UK services sector slowed to a 19 month low in December, according to a closely watched survey.

The Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index (PMI) for the sector recorded a score of 55.8 in the final month of 2014.

Any figure above 50 indicates growth, so the sector is still growing well. But the slowdown in December indicates a loss of momentum.

The services sector accounts for around 70% of UK GDP.

Markit chief economist Chris Williamson said: "The latest PMI reading is still strong, merely down from unusually high levels earlier in the year and in line with the average seen in the years leading up to the financial crisis."

Jeremy Cook, chief economist at World First, said: “While growth in the UK services sector remains strong and above historical averages, there is no denying that Q4 last year saw a very real slowing of the progression of the largest component of the UK economy.

“New business numbers as well as overall activity is said to have slowed by the most in over a year and a half, and with no sizeable increases in worker salaries despite cost cuts from fuel price movements, the message is one of definite caution.

“It is obvious to us all that the UK economy is no longer growing at an annualised rate of 3.0% and, combined with a poor short-term inflation outlook, stymies any thoughts of normalisation of rates by the Bank of England any time soon.

“Throw in the uncertainty and unpredictability of an election, and UK economy watchers are left entering 2015 with more questions than answers.”

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