The pace of growth in the manufacturing sector fell sharply in July, the Institute for Supply Management said on Thursday. The ISM index fell to 50.5, its lowest level since January, from 56.2 in June. Economists expected it to come in at 55. A reading above 50 is still consistent with growth in the factory sector, however. The new orders index, which gauges future demand for goods, fell to 50.4 in July from 60.8 in June. The employment index held up somewhat better. It dropped to 45 in July from 49.7 in June. Thursday's reports follow a pronounced drop in GDP growth for the second quarter and a weak outlook in the survey on Midwest manufacturing activity, which also had its worst reading since January. And the data come at the end of a month, in which the Dow fell approximately 7% and the Nasdaq shed about 11%. Lately, the Dow was off 1.5% and the Comp was falling 1.6%.