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Morning Market Roundup: EU & Recession, Ford's New Models, U.S. Service Industry Expands

Here’s what’s important in the business world this morning:

U.S. Service Industry: U.S. service companies grew at a faster pace in August than July and stepped up hiring.

The Institute for Supply Management said Thursday that its index of non-manufacturing activity increased in August to 53.7, up from a July reading of 52.6. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

Service companies employ roughly 90 percent of the work force and include everything from retail and construction companies to health care and financial services firms. The service has now grown for 32 straight months.

The report also showed that hiring among service companies jumped in August. A measure of employment rose to 53.8, up from 49.3 in July.

Oil: The price of oil rose above $96 a barrel on Thursday ahead of a meeting of the European Central Bank which is expected to announce a plan to help ease the eurozone's debt crisis.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for October delivery was up $1.10 to $96.46 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 6 cents to end at $95.36 per barrel in New York on Wednesday.

In London, Brent crude was up 84 cents at $113.93 on the ICE Futures exchange.

EU & Recession Fears: Europe's debt crisis is pushing the 17-country eurozone toward recession and dragging down the global economy, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Thursday.

Even growth in traditional economic powerhouse Germany is slowing, and the OECD's interim assessment said that Europe's largest economy could slip into recession by the end of the year.

"The negative elements of the global economy ... stemming mostly from Europe are there and they are somewhat stronger than they used to be a few months ago," OECD Chief economist Pier Carlo Padoan told reporters.

He said the good news was that the global economy was not in recession, but that avoiding one would depend on what politicians do in the coming months and pushed especially for more action by the European Central Bank. The ECB could outline later in the day a plan to buy up the bonds of governments struggling with high borrowing costs.

Ford: Ford has unveiled 15 new or restyled vehicles for the European market that it will launch over five years to revive sales.

The refreshed lineup announced Thursday includes a second-generation Kuga midsize SUV to be launched this year, as well as a new Ecosport compact SUV and the European launch of the larger Edge. Ford also will launch the iconic Mustang in Europe.

Ford Europe CEO Stephen Odell said improvements in the “brutal” European market are not expected soon. Ford, he said, is increasing its investment in Europe to be ready when the market bounces back.

Ford forecasts that car sales in Europe, including Russia, will increase by 20 percent in the next five years. Ford's first-half European sales dropped 10 percent to 517,094 units, a 7.8 percent market share.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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