Northern Ireland economy stalls in December
The NI economy stalled in December, research by the Ulster Bank suggests.
The bank's monthly Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) is a survey of a panel of firms that tracks indicators such as new orders, employment and exports
It had shown growth for 17 months in a row but in December it indicated a slight drop in economic output.
The bank's chief economist said it is not clear if this is a blip or if it signals "the start of a significant deterioration in business conditions."
Richard Ramsey said that Northern Ireland is "not unique in experiencing an economic slowdown".
The equivalent PMI survey for the UK shows the weakest rate of growth in 19 months, while global output growth slipped to a 14-month low in December.
Mr Ramsey said external economic conditions have a major bearing on Northern Ireland's economic performance, particularly for exporters.
Economic stagnation in the Eurozone and the wider global economic slowdown has impacted upon the local manufacturing sector in particular.
Northern Ireland's manufacturing firms reported their first decline in output, new orders and employment since mid-2013.
The economist said it was "perhaps concerning" that Northern Ireland's slowdown has been more marked than the rest of the UK.
However, he added that with Northern Ireland's two most important trading partners - the UK and the Republic of Ireland - are still posting strong rates of expansion and said this should drive growth in the local economy for some time to come.