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(Adds late New York prices, comment)
By Daniel Bases
NEW YORK, Aug 21 (Reuters) - U.S. Treasuries drifted higher on Thursday, showing little reaction to stronger-than-expected economic data while investors held out for any developments from the annual central banker get-together in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
The highlight of the meeting, starting later Thursday and sponsored by the Kansas City Federal Reserve, is the speech on Friday by Fed Chair Janet Yellen at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT), where she is expected talk about labor markets.
"We have fairly light volumes. People are looking ahead to Yellen. Not really sure what to expect there. Yesterday's minutes were definitely a little more hawkish than expected but doesn't mean much for tomorrow, given Yellen is in the dovish camp," said Justin Lederer, an interest rate strategist with Cantor Fitzgerald in New York, referring to the release on Wednesday of minutes from the Fed's last meeting in July.
The minutes showed the Fed discussed the merits of raising interest rates sooner than anticipated if stronger jobs market recovery trends stay in place.
"But now after today's data you are in a really mixed data environment," Lederer said.
Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasuries rose 6/32 of a point in price, to yield 2.40 percent. The 30-year long bond was up 20/32 of a point in price, pushing the yield, which moves in the opposite direction, down to 3.19 percent.
One dominant theme contributing to low U.S. yields for the past couple of months, says Amitabh Arora, head of G-10 rates strategy at Citigroup in New York, has been the low and falling inflation rate in Europe.
"The story there is really one of low inflation going lower, growth starting to disappoint and the assessments that whatever the policy response from the European Central Bank, it is not going to be strong enough," Arora said.
A second factor for the general drift up in rates has been U.S. economic data.
"It is not that the data in the U.S. is not inconsequential, but the bar is pretty high. You need a Q3 that is well in excess of 3 percent of GDP growth to make an impact on this market because we have had fairly disappointing data so far this year," said Arora.
Earlier, data showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected in the week ended Aug. 16 while the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell to the lowest level since 2007.
A private sector indicator of future U.S. economic activity rose more than expected in July while manufacturing activity in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region expanded in August at its highest level since March 2011. U.S. home resales hit a 10-month high in July, a fourth consecutive month of gains.
The Fed has targeted U.S. benchmark interest rates to be in a range between zero and 0.25 percent since December 2008. (Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Chizu Nomiyama)