WASHINGTON (TheStreet) -- Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen offered investors an unsettling update on Thursday as she said soft economic data the last two weeks merit a closer look by the central bank.
Addressing the Senate Banking Committee for the first time in her position as head of the Fed, Yellen diverged from prepared opening remarks to say that since she spoke two weeks ago to the House Financial Services Committee, softer housing, retail and industrial production numbers required closer attention from the Fed.
Economists have blamed severe winter weather across the United States for declining retail sales and industrial production, as well as weaker-than-anticipated existing home sales and housing starts.
While Yellen didn't offer markets a marked difference in commentary since she last spoke, the chairwoman delivered fluid opinions of how the Fed is moving forward with critical banking regulation.
The S&P 500 until this week was trading in negative territory for 2014, during which emerging markets suffered. But Yellen said at this stage global financial markets don't pose substantial risk to the U.S. economy.
The top central banker said the Fed will look to finalize rules of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in the near term. When pressed by Sen. David Vitter (R., La.) when exactly the Fed would finalize those rules, Yellen stuttered and said in the not-too-distant future.
Vitter wasn't surprised and didn't expect her to give a specific answer, the senator told TheStreet in an interview.
Yellen said she isn't worried about the pace of economic growth, but she did say she is becoming concerned that underwriting standards appeared to be deteriorating in leveraged lending.