Growth in the activities of the country's services sector was recorded for the third month in a row in April.

The rate of expansion was in line with that seen in March.

The NCB Services Purchasing Managers index inched higher to stand at 52.2 from 52.1 in March with companies reporting that increased marketing activities had helped to boost growth.

Higher new orders were also noted.

Any figure above 50 signals growth in a sector, while a figure below 50 indicates contraction.

The PMI shows that new business increased at a solid pace last month, with export orders a key source of that growth. NCB said that successful advertising campaigns led to a slightly higher level of new export orders. April was the ninth month in a row in which new business from abroad was recorded, it added.

Service providers did not increase their staffing levels last month, despite an increase in workloads, with companies saying that they were still trying to keep costs down.

NCB said that although input costs continue to increase in April, the rate of inflation was only slight and the weakest in eight months. Any rise in costs was mainly due to higher fuel costs, companies noted.

Output costs fell markedly last month with the rate of decline the strongest so far this year. This was due to intense competition for new business and NCB pointed out that output charges have now fallen very month since August 2008.