Business confidence in China's services sector slipped in September and growth slowed, a private survey showed today.

The survey is another signal that the world's second biggest economyis finding it difficult to regain solid momentum after a protracted slowdown.

The Markit/HSBC services PMI for September dipped to 52.4 from August's 52.8, although it was still well above the 50 line that separates expansion from contraction.

A rise in new business offset a slowdown in new orders, the survey said.

The survey showed business expectations weakened sharply, with respondents citing muted demand, although conditions were still expected to improve in the next year. The expectations sub-index stood at 58.7 in September from August's 62.0.

"The degree of confidence eased from August's five-month high and was the second-weakest in the near eight-year series history," HSBC said in a statement.

The government has an economic growth target of 7.5% for 2013, which would be the weakest rate in over 20 years.

It has repeatedly said it would accept slower growth as it tries to restructure the economy to be driven by consumer demand, rather than investment, credit and exports.

As part of the reforms, businesses may find funding harder to come by as the government looks to tighten credit and curb state spending, adding to the likelihood of slower growth.

China's GDP grew at an annual rate of 7.6% in the first half of 2013, slower than 7.7% last year and 9.3% in 2011. GDP data for the third quarter is due on October 18.