(Reuters) – Pending sales of previously owned U.S. homes rebounded unexpectedly in July and new claims for jobless benefits fell last week, hopeful signs for the sputtering economic recovery.

The data on Thursday, including sturdy retailers sales last month, followed a report on Wednesday showing surprising strength in the manufacturing sector and suggested that investors’ fears of a double-dip recession may have been over done.

“These are further signs the economy is not slipping into a recession albeit growth still looks quite slow,” Zach Pandl, an economist at Nomura Securities International in New York.

The National Association of Realtors said its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in July, increased 5.2 percent to 79.4 from June. Financial markets had expected the index, which leads existing home sales by a month or two, falling 1.0 percent.

Home sales have fallen sharply following the end in April of a popular tax credit for home buyers and the surprise gain in July raised hope the decline was close to a bottom.

A report from the Labor Department showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped for a second straight week, slipping 6,000 to 472,000, below market expectations for 475,000.

Stocks on Wall Street rose on the data, building on a big jump on Wednesday. U.S. government debt yields rose and the dollar was slightly weaker against major currencies.

Sentiment was also lifted as U.S. retailers posted better-than-expected sales in August as consumers sought out bargains during the key back-to-school selling season.

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=11543133

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