ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s services sector grew for a fourth month running in April and at the fastest rate since August 2021 amid rising confidence and continued growth in new business, a survey showed on Thursday.

The HCOB Global’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) increased to 57.6 from 55.7 in March, climbing further above the 50 level that separates growth from contraction.

The result beat the median forecast of 56.7 in a Reuters survey of 10 analysts.

“Italy’s services sector seems to be gaining robustness and this may have something to do with tourism, which according to the statistics authority has started the year with extraordinary growth rates,” said Tariq Kamal Chaudhry, an economist at HCOB.

The survey’s new business sub-index edged up to 56.3 from 56.2, while the indicator for business expectations increased to 65.7 from 64.9.

However, trends in prices were less positive. The sub-index for input prices grew to 62.9 from 61.5 while the prices charged index increased to 54.4 from 53.6.

“Companies are again having to contend with rising costs, as input prices have risen more sharply compared with March,” said economist Tariq Kamal Chaudhry.

The PMI for Italy’s smaller manufacturing sector, released on Tuesday, came in at 46.8, down from 51.1 in March – its weakest reading since last October.

The composite Purchasing Managers’ Index combining services and manufacturing stood at 55.3, edging up from 55.2 in March.

Italy’s economy grew by 0.5% in the first quarter from the previous three months, a stronger recovery than expected after a slight contraction at the end of last year, preliminary data showed last week.

(Reporting By Angelo Amante; editing by John Stonestreet)