(Updated with additional information.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The New York Federal Reserve's key manufacturing index that measures activity in the New York region came up shorter than expected Wednesday morning, pointing to a slower pace of growth but growth nonetheless.

The Empire State Manufacturing Survey index dropped 3 points to 4.1 for early September, after rising 2 points for a reading of 7.1 in August. Economists expected the index to decline to a reading of 6.4, according to Briefing.com, though any reading above zero indicates growth.

The new orders and shipments indexes were both up moderately for the month, to 4.33 and -0.27, respectively, at levels signaling stable activity, the report showed.

The prices paid index was positive at 22.39 and little changed from last month, while the prices received index edged up to 1.49, from a reading below of -2.89 in August.

Employment indexes were positive, suggesting that employment levels and the average workweek continued to expand over the month, the New York Fed reported.

The degree of optimism about the six-month outlook continued to deteriorate, with the future general business conditions index hitting its lowest level since early 2009. The future general business conditions index fell 4 points to a reading of 31.3, indicating that manufacturers still expect business conditions to improve but at a less robust pace than previously thought.

The surveys have shown a slowdown in recent months and are closely watched by investors. August's reading of 7.1 was sharply lower than the average of 23.5 in the second quarter.

The SPDR S&P 500 ( SPY - Get Report), an exchange-traded fund that tracks the S&P 500, traded down 0.4% ahead of the opening bell Wednesday after edging lower by less than 0.1% in trading Tuesday. The SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ( DIA - Get Report) ETF lost 0.4% in pre-market trading after falling 0.2% in the prior session. The PowerShares QQQ Trust ( QQQQ) fell 0.4%, after gaining 0.4% Tuesday.

In August, the new orders and shipments index dipped below zero for the first time in more than a year; the unfilled orders index was also negative last month.

The indexes for both prices paid and prices received inched down in August, while employment indexes were positive and higher than in July. The six-month outlook weakened in August though future indexes for employment and capital expenditures climbed in August after falling in July.

The NY Empire State Index is a seasonally-adjusted index that tracks the Empire State Manufacturing Survey which is distributed to around 175 manufacturing executives asking questions that gauge their current sentiment and their six-month outlook on the sector. It is a regional economic indicator of conditions in one of the most populated states in the U.S.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.

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