The Department of Labor Thursday reported that initial jobless claims in the week ended June 22 decreased 9,000 to 346,000. Economists on average were expecting jobless claims of 345,000. The four-week moving average was 345,750, a decline of 2,750.

"The latest reading brings claims back below the 350,000 line-in-the-sand beneath which the economy should translate into payroll gains," Andrew Wilkinson, New York-based chief economist strategist at Miller Tabak said in a note.

Continuing claims in the week ended June 15 fell 1,000 to 2.965 million, according the Department of Labor. Economists were expecting continuing claims of 2.95 million.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis said that personal income increased by a greater-than-expected $69.4 billion, or 0.5% in May. A 0.2% gain in personal income was expected. Personal spending rose $29 billion, or 0.3%, in line with estimates.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that its Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, increased by a much greater than expected 6.7% to 112.3 in May, its highest level since late 2006 as buyers appeared to want to take advantage of favorable financing conditions before mortgage interest rates move higher, according to Lawrence Yun, the chief economist at the Chicago-based NAR. A May rise of 1% was expected.

"This implies a continuation of double-digit price increases from a year earlier, with a strong push from pent-up demand," Yun said in a statement.

Yields on the benchmark 10-year Treasury fell to 2.508%.

-- Written by Antoine Gara and Andrea Tse in New York.

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