The head of the U.S. central bank says recent foul winter weather may be the reason for some signs that economic growth is slowing.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen spoke to a key Senate committee on Thursday. She said Fed officials will watch new economic data closely as they decide how quickly they should reduce efforts to stimulate the economy.
Snow and frigid weather are blamed for slowing sales of homes, cars, and other goods as consumers stayed home to stay warm.
Another economic report published Thursday showed the number of Americans signing up for unemployment assistance rose 14,000 to a nationwide total of 348,000.
While the increase was more than economists had predicted, the total is still low enough to indicate a gradually improving job market.
The job market is still recovering from the financial crisis that pushed up unemployment.
One sign of that recovery is a decline in the number of home foreclosures during the past year.
Research firm CoreLogic says the number of homes foreclosed in January was down by 19 percent from the same period a year earlier.