Service sector shrinks unexpectedly in November


The U.S. economy hit an unexpected pothole on the road to recovery last month, as the Institute for Supply Management's Non-Manufacturing Index fell to 48.7 in November from 50.6 in October, the ISM announced Thursday. Readings above 50 indicate an expansion; below 50, a contraction. It was the first time in three months that this index, also known as the services index, indicated that the sector was contracting.

What's more, the index's closely-watched business activity component also declined, falling for the first time in four months, to 49.6 in November from 55.2 in October. The business activity component totaled 55.1 in September and 51.3 in August. The consensus of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had been that the services index would total 52.0 in November. The index totaled 50.9 in September and 48.4 in August. It hit a low point of 37.4 in November 2008.