(Adds paragraphs at end on next week's data)
* Early May U.S. consumer sentiment highest in almost six years
* April leading indicators point to growth
* Treasuries could stay range bound in coming sessions
By Ellen Freilich
NEW YORK, May 17 (Reuters) - Prices for U.S. Treasuries fell on Friday after data showed consumers grew more optimistic in May and an index of leading indicators pointed to economic growth ahead.
U.S. consumer sentiment rebounded in early May to the highest level in nearly six years as Americans felt better about their financial and economic prospects, particularly among upper-income households, a survey released on Friday showed.
With the better-than-expected retail sales figures on Monday, "you could probably say maybe the consumer is in a little better shape than we were thinking," said Steve Van Order, fixed-income strategist at Calvert Investments in Bethesda, Maryland.
But he cautioned that Treasuries are likely to stay within recent ranges as the dialogue continues about when the U.S. Federal Reserve might slow its asset-purchase program.
That debate includes a third, less-often-heard, possibility: that the Fed could increase its purchases if needed.
The statement from the Fed's April 30-May 1 policy meeting said the Fed's policy committee continued to see "downside risks" to the economic outlook and said it was "prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes."
Van Order pointed to next Wednesday's release of minutes from the Fed's most recent policymaking meeting as perhaps giving investors a hint at central bankers' thinking.
Benchmark 10-year Treasuries dropped 21/32 in price while their yields rose to 1.957 percent from 1.879 percent late Thursday.
The 30-year bond traded 1-11/32 lower. Its yield rose to 3.17 percent from 3.096 percent late Thursday.
Treasuries rallied in the previous two sessions as a spate of disappointing economic data about jobs and inflation underscored potential weakness in the world's largest economy.
The data argued against the Fed slowing or stopping its buying of $85 billion per month in Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities, a bid to prop up the U.S. economy and reduce unemployment.
"We still don't know what tapering means, we don't know what it looks like, we don't know the size, we just don't know," said David Ader, senior government bond strategist at CRT Capital Group, in Stamford, Connecticut.
Instead, yields could keep bouncing within recent ranges, said Jim Vogel, interest-rate strategist at FTN Financial in Memphis.
Vogel said he expects to see a range of 1.85 percent to 2.015 percent in 10-year note yields in coming sessions.
The market faces a fairly light calendar of economic data in the coming week with data on April existing home sales due on Wednesday and figures on durable goods porders due on Friday.
Of the economic data due in the coming week, the Labor Department's weekly count of new jobless claims, due on Thursday, could get the most attention since Fed policymakers are very much focused on labor market conditions.
Minutes from the Fed's April 30-May 1 policy meeting will be scrutinized as investors try to get the full flavor of the Fed's most recent policy discussions.
(Additional reporting by Luciana Lopez; Editing by Chris Reese, Jan Paschal and Chizu Nomiyama)