TREASURIES-Prices gain as Fed, payrolls loom
* Analysts say Fed could address tapering next week
* Nonfarm payrolls for July could clarify labor market health
NEW YORK, July 26 (Reuters) - Prices for U.S. Treasuries rose slightly on Friday, with investors reluctant to stake out large positions ahead of key events next week that could help clarify when the Federal Reserve might slow or stop its massive asset-buying program. "I just think they're waiting for more clues about what's going to happen. A lot of people want to know, is tapering going to start in September?," said Dimitri Delis, interest-rate strategist at BMO Capital Markets in Chicago. But he cautioned that the Fed's decision will depend on incoming economic data. "I think if you start getting some weaker numbers, you might see some of these expectations being scaled back," Delis said. The benchmark 10-year note rose 6/32 in price on Friday to yield 2.555 percent, from 2.577 percent late on Thursday. The 30-year bond gained 15/32 in price on Friday to yield 3.618 percent, from 3.646 percent late on Thursday. Yields for both 10- and 30-year Treasuries rose for the week, retaking almost all the ground lost in the previous week. With little economic data or news to goad yields to new highs or lows this week, many investors have sat on the sidelines, waiting for information on the biggest question in Treasuries at the moment: When will the Fed pause its $85 billion per month buying in Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities? Fed officials, including Chairman Ben Bernanke, have hinted that the bank is looking at pulling back the purchases as the economy improves. As a result, yields have risen more or less steadily since May, even as Fed speakers have hastened to reassure markets that a slowing in the so-called quantitative easing purchase program does not mean the Fed will hike rates any time soon. The Fed holds a policy meeting next week, with a statement set for the second and final day, Wednesday. Depending on what the Fed says, bearish trendlines, in place since around early May, could get broken, said William O'Donnell, head Treasury strategist with RBS Securities in Stamford, Connecticut. "If the trendlines are broken, that would turn my medium-term price momentum bullish," he said. "I think if those trends break, 2.25 (percent yield on the 10-year note) is a shoo-in." A major factor in Fed policy decisions will be the health of the U.S. labor market. Nonfarm payrolls figures for July, due next Friday, could help investors gauge whether the jobs market is strengthening enough for the Fed to wean the economy off QE. Policymakers want to see the unemployment rate closer to 6.5 percent than its current 7.6 percent.