A key index of U.S. services activity that captured only part of the effects of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon showed that while the transportation sector suffered, business activity was virtually unchanged during September.

The National Association of Purchasing Management said on Wednesday its monthly non-manufacturing index snapped a two-month fall, rising to 50.2 in September from 45.5 in August.

While the index beat expectations for a reading of 43.0, the report said the data "basically indicated no change in activity in September compared to August." But the report said the transportation sector suffered in the business activity, new orders, and employment categories.

A reading above 50 indicates expanding activity in the services sector, which includes everything from transportation to legal and financial services. The index has shown expansion for only two of the past six months. NAPM's manufacturing index, which measures less than one-fifth of overall economic activity, has been mired below 50 for the past 14 months.

NAPM's non-manufacturing new orders index, seen as a leading indicator of future business activity, rose to 49.8 from 45.9 in August. Employers also reduced their payrolls for the seventh consecutive month. The index is compiled from a survey of more than 370 purchasing managers in more than 62 different service industries once monthly.