Stocks trade mixed as manufacturing growth slows

NEW YORK (AP) ? Stocks traded mixed Thursday after U.S. manufacturing expanded in August, but at a slower rate than the month before. Retailers reported strong sales despite wild swings in the stock market and worries about the economy.

The Institute for Supply Management’s index indicated that manufacturing expanded for the 25th straight month. Analysts had expected a contraction. The growth was still down from July.

Manufacturing has been one of the strongest parts of the economy since the recession ended two years ago. On Wednesday, a surge in factory orders reassured investors that the industry remains healthy.

The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 6 points, or 0.1 percent, to 11,620 at 12:30 p.m. It rose as many as 103 points shortly after the manufacturing report came out at 10 a.m. It was barely changed for much of the morning.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose less than a point to 1,219. The Nasdaq composite index rose 1 to 2,580.

All three indexes had their worst August since 2001 after fears of an economic slowdown in the U.S. and debt issues in Europe put investors on edge.

Trading volume was on pace to be the lowest this year. Many traders were on vacation. Low volume suggests that relatively few investors were driving the market’s gains and losses.

Rob Lutts, president and chief investment officer of Cabot Money Management, said he expected volume to remain very light until early next week, when many traders return to work after Labor Day. “That’s when we’ll see what’s really going on,” Lutts said.

Retailers rose after several companies reported sales gains that beat analysts’ estimates. August is an important month for back-to-school shopping, which can account for up to 25 percent of retailers’ annual revenue. Macy’s Inc. rose 3.6 percent; Costco Wholesale Corp. rose 2.2 percent.

SAIC Inc. fell 12 percent after the technology company issued a full-year earnings forecast that was below analysts’ expectations. The company, which provides engineering and technology services to the military and other agencies, cited tightening government budgets.