Ireland’s services sector grew for a ninth consecutive month in April, according to new figures from NCB.

The latest NCB Services Purchasing Managers Index showed a reading of 55.2 last month, up on the March figure of 52.6.

Panellists pointed to an increase in new business as a leading factor in the rise, while some attributed the gain to growth in export markets.

The index shows a rise in new export business for the 21st successive month, though the rate of expansion was at an eight-month low.

Panellists pointed to non-euro zone markets as a source of particular growth in April.

All sub-sectors measured within the index also reported growth for the third month in a row.

However companies said strong competition meant that pressure remained on pricing, which has been in negative territory since August 2008.

Despite this, with predictions for the coming year showing optimism across the services sector.