Irish service providers saw another increase in business activity last month, although the rate of growth was the slowest since last August.
The latest NCB Services Purchasing Managers index stood at 53.6 in February, down from the January reading of 56.8 which was a five year high.
The February reading marks the seventh month in a row that the services sector expanded.
NCB also noted that each of the four sectors monitored for the index - business services, financial services, technology, media and telecoms and transport, travel, tourism and leisure - recorded growth last month.
NCB said that new orders increased at a ''solid'' pace in February, although the rate of growth eased to a six month low.
Companies reported a growth in demand from existing customers and the securing of new clients.
New export orders also continued to rise sharply, with the UK and the Middle East reported as new sources of business. NCB's chief economist Philip O'Sullivan noted a moderation in the pace of exports growth, but said this must be considered in the context of January's performance, which represented the fastest growth since the index started in June 2002.
On the jobs front, staffing levels at service providers rose again last month - the sixth month of increases in a row - due to heavier workloads.
The survey reveals that higher utility and fuel costs pushed input cost inflation higher in February. Although output charges continued to fall, the pace of reduction was only slight. Some companies told NCB that discounts were still required to win new customers.
NCB said that signs of improving economic conditions led companies to forecast growth over the coming year. It noted that sentiment was the strongest in three months, with companies also predicting investment in marketing and competitive pricing to boost activity.
Mr O'Sullivan said the latest reading on the pricing front was ''somewhat discouraging''. He said the mismatch between input prices and output prices has weighted on profitability in the services sector.