By John S. McClenahen In the wake of U.S. Commerce Department data showing that the U.S. economy grew much slower than expected during the second quarter of this year, the latest manufacturing index from the Tempe, Ariz.-based Institute for Supply Management (ISM) shows weak growth during the first month of the third quarter. ISM's PMI Index was 50.5% in July, some 5.7 percentage points below its 56.2% mark in June. What's more, although July was the sixth consecutive month in which the index has showed U.S. manufacturing growing, it was barely above the 50% level that separates growth from contraction. "Comments from purchasing and supply executives reflect a wide range of concerns," ISM says. "Some indicate that business is improving but question whether it will continue. Others are experiencing declines and question if we have hit the bottom." The data, however, "do not hint of a double-dip [recession] but only of more moderate growth," says Maury Harris, chief U.S. economist at UBS Warburg LLC, New York. Meanwhile, initial claims for unemployment insurance increased to 387,000 during the week ending July 27 from the previous week's revised figure of 367,000, reports the U.S. Labor Department's Employment & Training Administration. The four-week moving average for initial claims was 386,000, up 250 from the previous week's revised 385,750, but still, notes Merrill Lynch & Co. economist Karen Dexter, at a 16-month low.