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Stocks weaken after manufacturing growth slows

Steve Rothwell, AP Markets Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks were slipping on Wall Street Monday morning after an industry group reported that U.S. manufacturing growth cooled in March and was weaker than economists had forecast.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 23 points, or 0.2 percent, at 14,554 as of 10:41 a.m. EDT. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped seven points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,562. The Nasdaq composite fell 20 points, or 0.6 percent, to 3,247.

U.S. manufacturing kept growing for a fourth straight month in March, but at a slower rate, according to the Institute for Supply Management. The ISM's manufacturing index dropped to 51.3 from 54.2 in February. Economists polled by the data provider FactSet had expected the index to come in at 54.

The S&P 500 ended the first quarter last week by closing at an all-time high of 1,569.19, surpassing its previous record close of 1,565.15 set on Oct. 9, 2007. The index has recaptured all of its losses from the financial crisis and the Great Recession. The index has gained 10 percent since the start of the year and the Dow is 11.2 percent higher.

Gains for stocks this year have been driven by optimism that the housing market is recovering and employers and starting to hire again. Strong company earnings and continuing stimulus from the Federal Reserve have also increased demand for stocks.

EBay rose $1.95 to $56.13. The company said late Friday that it expects revenue and profit to keep heading higher in the coming years as its e-commerce business and fast-growing PayPal payments service continue to expand.

Brewer Molson Coors, which counts Coors and Miller Lite among its beers, rose $1.87 to $50.80 after Goldman Sachs upgraded its rating on the stock to "Buy" from "Neutral," citing a better outlook for beer sales as the economy improves.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, fell to 1.84 percent from 1.85 percent.

Markets were closed in observance of Good Friday last week. European markets were closed Monday for Easter.