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NEW YORK: US Treasury yields fell on Thursday, undermined by weak manufacturing surveys around the world that boosted concerns about a global slowdown.

Volume thinned in the afternoon ahead of a long weekend, with financial markets closing for the Good Friday holiday.

Prior to Thursday's decline, US yields tracked four-week highs, rising in four of the last six sessions. Treasury yields overall have been supported by generally solid US data that suggested the economy is in far better shape than expected.

For instance, US retail sales last month rose 1.6%, handily exceeding forecasts of a 0.9% gain. The number was also a steep turnaround from February's 0.2% fall.

However, US retail sales were offset by sluggish French and German surveys of purchasing managers in the manufacturing sector for April, which showed contraction in activity.

"The US data were really strong. The retail sales report was great, but they seem to be focused on the fact that the data are struggling out of Europe," said Mary Anne Hurley, vice president of fixed income trading at D.A. Davidson in Seattle. "The problem in Europe would likely keep the Fed (Federal Reserve) on hold."

The soft numbers out of Europe came after a report on Japanese manufacturing activity which showed new export orders fell at the fastest pace in almost three years.

In early afternoon trading, US 10-year note yields fell to 2.563%, from Wednesday's level of 2.592%.

Yields on US 30-year bonds were also lower at 2.961% , down from 2.992% on Wednesday.

US 2-year yields slipped to 2.384%, down from 2.402% late on Wednesday.

Andrew Hunter, senior US economist at Capital Economics in London, said the retail sales figures provided some comfort that "the economy isn't falling off a cliff."

"But they don't change our view that the fading of the fiscal boost and the lagged impact of the Fed's monetary tightening will push GDP growth below its 2 percent potential pace over the coming quarters," he added.

A separate report from the Labor Department on Thursday showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 192,000 for the week ended April 13, the lowest since September 1969. Claims have now declined for five straight weeks.

Copyright Reuters, 2019