Markit Economics' service-sector sample reports strong activity, at a January index of 55.6 vs 55.1 in the mid-month flash and against 53.9 in December. The report describes new orders as "robust" and confidence in the outlook as the best since May last year. The rise in new orders is giving a lift to backlogs which are up for a 5th time in the last 6 months. Rising backlogs are positive for employment which is steady near December's 15-month peak. Input costs are on the rise, due to energy prices and also higher wages, though selling prices are up only marginally. This report is an echo of this morning's jobs report, one that points to strength and optimism.