MOSCOW: Russia's service sector continued to expand in December, albeit at a slower pace than the previous month, buoyed by a sharp expansion in new business and a pick up in foreign client demand, the Markit purchasing managers index (PMI) showed on Saturday.

The index's headline figure declined to 54.4 in December from 55.6 in November, but stayed above the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction since early 2016.

“The final quarterly growth performance was the strongest for a year, with employment and business confidence picking up to indicate optimism across the service sector going into 2019," said Sian Jones, an economist at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey.

The Russian service industry in December recorded a strong increase in export orders, including from new and existing clients, IHS Markit said.

The monthly survey also showed that business confidence improved across the Russian service sector in December, while job creation picked up to an eight-month high across the country.

Copyright Reuters, 2018