Northern Ireland economic recovery 'losing momentum'
Economic recovery in Northern Ireland is losing momentum, according to fresh data on the private sector from the Ulster Bank.
Business output and new orders have just had their weakest growth since the recovery began in mid-2013.
"Northern Ireland's slowdown is also more marked than the rest of the UK," said the bank's chief economist, Richard Ramsey.
The monthly survey of firms is known as the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI).
It suggested the drop-off was "particularly marked" in manufacturing and construction.
"Overall it is encouraging that Northern Ireland's recovery continues," Mr Ramsey said.
"However, as we enter 2015 there is perhaps not as much momentum as we would like, particularly given the challenging public expenditure environment that lies ahead."
The PMI tracks indicators such as new orders, employment and exports.
The rest of the UK, unlike Northern Ireland, reported better progress.
The gap between the local and national private sector growth rates is now at its widest since the recovery began.
Mr Ramsey said: "Clearly the ongoing economic difficulties in the Eurozone are having an impact on the order books of local firms.
"Last month saw Northern Ireland's private sector firms report their first decline in export orders in 17 months."