Investors looking to gauge economic sentiment drew upon several government reports on Thursday indicating the state of home sales, durable goods investments and jobless claims.

A surprising positive came from the Commerce Department which said sales of new U.S. homes rose to an unexpected rate of 4.8 percent annual rate of 770,000, beating some forecasters' estimates.

Offsetting good news on the housing front, the department said September orders for durable goods fell by 1.7 percent to $214.53 billion, off the mark from economists' expectations of a 1.5 percent increase. The results may indicate that companies will decrease their appetite for goods made to last more than three years.

In addition, the U.S. Labor Department said jobless claims fell 8,000 to 331,000 on a seasonably adjusted basis for the week ending October 20, less than a drop of 17,000 claims the week before.