US STOCKS-Wall Street lower as weak data dents optimism on economy
* ISM's factory activity index drops to 49.4 in August
* Jobless claims rise to 263,000 last week vs est. 265,000
* Banks among top drags on S&P, Dow
* Dow down 0.04 pct, S&P down 0.12 pct, Nasdaq up 0.17 pct (Updates to early afternoon)
By Yashaswini Swamynathan and Mamidipudi Soumithri
Sept 1 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and the Dow were slightly lower on Thursday, after sluggish monthly factory activity data dented optimism about the economy, even as investors count down to a crucial jobs report on Friday.
The Nasdaq was higher, boosted by Charter Communications , which rose 4.2 percent after the S&P Dow Jones Indices said the cable services company is set to join the S&P 500 index. Gains in Microsoft and Apple also buoyed the index.
A report from the Institute of Supply Management showed U.S. factory activity contracted for the first time in six months in August as new orders and production tumbled.
"It's an under-50 ISM number. Given that the Fed is so data-dependent, the market is worrying about how that will affect the Fed's decision," said Ernie Cecilia, chief investment officer of Bryn Mawr Trust in Pennsylvania. Continuación...