WASHINGTON (AP) — The Institute for Supply Management reports on February growth at U.S. service firms at 10 a.m. Eastern Thursday.

LIKELY UNCHANGED: Economists expect the ISM services index will hold steady at 53.5 for the second straight month, according to a survey by the data firm FactSet. Any reading over 50 shows that services firms are expanding, but the pace of growth has slowed after peaking at its strongest level in nearly a decade last July.

The ISM is a trade group of purchasing managers. Its services survey covers businesses that employ the vast majority of workers, including retail, construction, health care and financial services companies.

CONSUMER SPENDING KEY: U.S. economic growth increasingly hinges on consumers, as uncertainty about global growth has hampered manufacturing and exports. Home and auto sales have steadily advanced over the past year, while spending at restaurants has also improved. Those gains have spread to hiring as businesses in the services sector account for 90 percent of the 2.7 million jobs added in the past 12 months.

Those gains contrast with a shrinking manufacturing sector.

ISM reported this week that its manufacturing index stood at 49.5 in February — a level that shows factory activity as contracting. Manufacturing has now been shrinking for five straight months.

The decline in factory activity stems from a global slowdown. Economic growth in China has become mired with doubts, as its currency is shedding value, industrial firms plan for job cuts, and high debt loads weigh on corporate balance sheets. Europe has struggled to recover from the 2008 financial market collapse. The result has been a decline in oil prices and a rising dollar that have hurt orders at U.S. manufacturers.

Yet the global pressures have yet to derail the broader U.S. economy because of consumers. The low 4.9 percent unemployment rate has corresponded with a pick-up in wage growth and more spending on vehicles, housing and meals out.

Auto sales rose 7 percent over last February to 1.3 million vehicles, according to Autodata Corp.

Purchases of existing homes rose 0.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.47 million, according to the National Association of Realtors. The improvement follows a solid 2015 when sales achieved their highest level in nine years.

And spending at restaurants has risen 6.1 percent over the past 12 months.