Sharp increase reported in business activity
Business activity in Northern Ireland has experienced its sharpest increase for more than a year, according to new figures.
Faster rates of growth for output, new orders and employment for private sector companies were recorded in the Ulster Bank Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for January.
The index, which provides a benchmarked snapshot of the economic outlook, also found the rate of cost inflation remained marked but local firms were only able to increase their output prices at a marginal pace.
Richard Ramsey, chief economist Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank, said: "January's incoming economic and financial market news had more than its fair share of doom and gloom. While business conditions have deteriorated within a global context, Northern Ireland's private sector has reported a very encouraging start to the New Year."
Sector data showed widespread rises in output, led by the services sector.
Retail, which had a disappointing fourth quarter, reported increases in orders and staffing levels.
Construction firms have also continued to show signs of improvement with more output and orders.
But the expansion of employment within the construction industry, the biggest rise since May 2014, has been largely attributed to the work undertaken in Great Britain, not Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, manufacturing still remains a key area of concern with companies reporting a modest rise in output in January but a slump in new orders which have resulted in job losses for the fifth month in a row.
Mr Ramsey said : "As the global economic news looks set to remain downbeat, this will likely impact on the Northern Ireland manufacturing sector during the course of 2016.
"And whilst the service sector has had a strong start to the year, the public spending environment, with spending cuts to come, will act as a drag in the months ahead."