NEW YORK, Oct 11 (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to the lowest level in more than four and a half years, according government data on Thursday that suggested improvement in the labor market.
STORY: TABLE COMMENTS: DAVID SLOAN, ECONOMIST, 4CAST LTD, NEW YORK
"There was a big surprise in the fall. It was probably partly erratic and assisted by seasonal adjustments, given the fall we have had in the unemployment rate. It does seem like there is something going on maybe in the labor market. The Labor Department said most of the fall came in one state. The numbers are probably exaggerating the scale of the labor market improvement, but it does seem that there is something going on.
"Import prices were a little higher than expected and last month was upwardly revised. The higher import prices are contributing to a wider trade deficit, but also export numbers were a bit disappointing."
BRIAN KIM, CURRENCY STRATEGIST, RBS SECURITIES, STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT
"This is a positive signal for the economy. The overall trend seems to be that the labor market is improving."
PETER CARDILLO, CHIEF MARKET ECONOMIST, ROCKWELL GLOBAL CAPITAL, NEW YORK
"This is a lot better-than-expected. It's a number that is somewhat of a surprise and the market is going to react positively. It shows the trend that the labor market is slightly improving."
JORDAN WAXMAN, MANAGING DIRECTOR AND PARTNER AT HIGHTOWER IN NEW YORK
"Claims looked pretty strong, definitely a big drop down. We're starting to hear noise about companies hiring, and that's what the market is waiting for. Without labor market improvement, we can't get a sustainable rally. The numbers seem to be moving in the right direction."
STOCKS: U.S. stock index futures added to their gains
BONDS: U.S. Treasury debt prices added to their losses .
FOREX: The dollar extended its gains against the yen, hitting session highs .
(Americas Economics and Markets Desk; +1-646 223-6300)
Keywords: USA ECONOMY/JOBLESS CLAIMS