Spain's services sector activity grew at the fastest pace in five months in December, supported by higher volumes of new business and sailing against the winds of economic slowdown across Europe, a survey showed on Thursday.

The HCOB Spain Services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) compiled by S&P Global rose to 51.5 from 51.0 in November. The indicator has been above 50 - the line separating growth from contraction - in every month since November 2022 except in August.

Spain's services sector, which includes the tourism industry in one of the world's most-visited countries, accounts for around half of economic output.

"In contrast to the overall economic weakness in Europe, Spain's service sector appears to be charting its own course," wrote Cyrus de la Rubia, chief economist at Hamburg Commercial Bank, adding that businesses were also showing increased optimism about their output in the next 12 months.

"While it is far away from a full-blown boom, the resilience is surprising," he wrote, expecting the Spanish economy to maintain its growth trajectory in the fourth quarter and "enter the new year from a solid starting position".

Service providers ramped up their hiring, although that resulted in higher wage costs, adding to overall costs for most businesses, the survey showed.

The consistent growth in services activity in recent months contributed to Spain's overall economic growth which, at a faster than expected 0.3% in the third quarter, surpassed most large European Union economies.

The government expects the economy to have grown 2.4% in 2023.

Still, S&P Global's sister survey on Spanish manufacturing released on Tuesday showed a ninth consecutive monthly contraction in December. (Reporting by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Hugh Lawson)