ISM Services Index Edges Up in March

A gauge of the giant U.S. services sector that was inadvertently released earlier than scheduled on Friday rose slightly in March due to a pick-up in new orders.

The Institute for Supply Management's (search) headline services index ticked up to 63.1 in March, the highest since December, compared with 59.8 in February. The new orders component jumped to 62.1 last month from 55.8 in February.

"New orders were strong and that is representing strength in our economy, which is still expanding. And it confirms the Fed will continue (raising rates) at a measured pace," said Tim Mazanec, director of foreign exchange with Investors Bank and Trust in Boston.

ISM said its non-manufacturing index for March was accidentally issued on Friday, catching off guard analysts and markets, which were braced for its factory report.

Nobert Ore, chair of the group's manufacturing business survey committee, vouched for the accuracy of the services index: "There would be one final proofing before that information was released by BizWire. That was not done, but it would be rare that there would be an error because it was proofed numerous times."

He added that fully proofed reports are available on the group's Web site at

U.S. bond yields (search) and the dollar rose after the report.

The services report's employment measure edged down to 57.1 in March from 59.6 in February. The prices paid index ticked down to 65.6 from 66.4.

The services sector (search) makes up the majority of the U.S. economy.