The services sector recovered in February from its weakest in almost six years, but activity remained soft ahead of Britain's exit from the European Union on March 29, a survey showed today. 

Ireland brushed aside the initial uncertainty from Britain's 2016 vote to leave the EU, posting the fastest economic growth in Europe for five years in a row. 

But there have been signs of weakness in recent weeks, with consumer sentiment falling to a four-year low yesterday.

The AIB services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) recovered to stand at 55.9 from 54.2 in January, but February's reading was still the second weakest since October 2016. 

The services PMI has held above the 50 mark separating growth from contraction since 2012. 

The readings for the past two months indicate that while the economy will perform strongly in 2019, it is "unlikely to maintain the robust rate of economic growth seen in recent years," AIB's chief economist Oliver Mangan said. 

The survey's sub-indexes measuring prices charged, new business and outstanding business all improved, while business expectations and new export business both deteriorated in February. 

"The strengthening in activity saw a rise in the backlog of orders, suggesting that there may be capacity pressures emerging in the sector," Oliver Mangan said.

There are also increasing signs of inflationary pressures, he added.