TREASURIES-Yields rise to two-year highs as jobless claims fall
* Yields surge to highest since August 2011
* Fed seen more likely to cut bond purchases in September
* Fed to buy $3 billion to $4 billion notes due 2019, 2020
NEW YORK, Aug 15 (Reuters) - U.S. Treasuries yields rose to their highest in two years on Thursday after data showed that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell to a near six-year low, boosting expectations that the Federal Reserve is close to paring back its bond purchase program. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 320,000, the lowest level since October 2007. "The data continues to improve and impress the marketplace and I think the data will continue in this direction. Then the question becomes not whether they are going to taper in September, but how much they will taper," said Charles Comiskey, head of Treasuries trading at Bank of Nova Scotia in New York. Benchmark 10-year notes yields rose as high as 2.823 percent, the highest since August 1, 2011. Thirty-year bond yields increased to 3.838 percent, the highest since August 8, 2011. A Reuters poll released on Wednesday showed a majority of economists expect the Fed to pare bond purchases at its Sept. 17-18 policy meeting, with a consensus expecting that the central bank would reduce its $85 billion a month purchases by $15 billion initially. Investors will next focus on the release of the minutes from the Fed's July meeting next Wednesday for signs over the timing of any cuts in the buybacks. The Fed will buy $3 billion to $4 billion in notes due 2019 and 2020 on Thursday as part of its ongoing purchase program. Surprisingly strong retail sales in Britain and weak demand for new government debt in the United Kingdom was seen as adding to pressure on Treasuries in early trading, before the data. Bonds have also come under pressure this week as investors who had bet that bonds would improve after last week's supply exited positions, adding to the weakness.