The tax-exempt market was stronger for the second session Thursday as traders said demand pushed prices higher. Many of the week's largest deals are expected to price later Thursday.

"We are busy today," a New York trader said. "Up, up, and away."

In the primary market, Citi is expected to price $810 million of New Jersey Turnpike Authority  revenue bonds, rated A3 by Moody's Investors Service, A-plus by Standard & Poor's, and A by Fitch Ratings.

On Wednesday, the 10-year Municipal Market Data yield and the 30-year yield dropped three basis points each to 1.87% and 2.99%, erasing Tuesday's losses. The two-year closed at 0.29% for the 20th straight session.

Treasuries were stronger for the third consecutive session. The benchmark 10-year yield and the 30-year yield dropped three basis points each to 1.67% and 2.78%, respectively. The two-year fell two basis points to 0.26%.

In economic news, initial claims rose 4,000 to 372,000 for the week ending Aug. 18 compared to the 365,000 economists had expected. Continuing claims rose 4,000 to 3.317 million for the previous week.

"Despite the increase in the latest week, the four-week average of claims has fallen by 8,000 between the July and August employment survey weeks — the four-week average of claims is in fact the lowest for an employment survey week in the recovery thus far," wrote economists at RDQ Economics. "These data suggest that the pace of job losses has slowed, which is an encouraging sign as we look ahead to the important August employment report that will be published on September 7th."
In other economic news, sales of new single-family homes rose 3.6% in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 372,000. The increase beat economist expectations of a 365,000 pace.

"With new home sales completely reversing June's decline on strength in sales in the Northeast, the evidence continues to build that activity in the housing sector is on an upward trend," RDQ economists wrote. "An important factor in the housing market's stabilization and nascent recovery is the turnaround in home prices, which the FHFA reported in June were up on a month-over-month basis for the fifth consecutive month. Given the small share of overall economic activity that housing accounts for, the growth in sales and construction is unlikely to be a major factor contributing to growth over the next year, but we can at least say that it is no longer a drag on activity."

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