In her first testimony to the Congress, U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen reiterated central bank's plan to taper its stimulus exit despite recent weakness in the economy.
The current economic situation and outlook, as well as the monetary policy, were the main focus of the hearing held twice a year.
Yellen told lawmakers she expected "a great deal of continuity" in the central bank's monetary policy, saying that she served on the Fed policy-setting committee as the bank formulated its current policy strategy and she strongly supported that strategy.
Yellen, 67, took the oath of office to lead the Federal Reserve System on Feb. 3, succeeding Ben Bernanke, who stepped down after eight turbulent years. She was previously the Fed's vice Chair.
In the public debut in her new role, Yellen said while the economy gained steam at the end of 2013, recovery in the U.S. labor market was "far from complete," underscoring the importance of considering more than just the unemployment rate when evaluating the conditions of the labor market.
Her point of keeping an eye on wider range of labor indicators is particularly important as the unemployment rate, now at 6.6 percent, is near the 6.5 percent threshold the Fed once identified as the level that would need to be reached before officials would consider a hike in the interest rates.
"If coming information broadly supports the Committee's expectation of ongoing improvement in labor market conditions and inflation moving back toward its long-run objective, the Committee will likely reduce the pace of asset purchases in further measured steps at future meetings," Yellen indicated steady pullback in Fed stimulus, referring to the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy.
While admitting she was "surprised" by the two recent jobs reprts that showed the pace of job creation running under what she had expected, Yellen cautioned against jumping to conclusions of the longer trend. She told the Congress that the Fed needs to see a "notable change" in the economic outlook to consider pausing its withdrawal of stimulus.
The Fed trimmed its monthly purchases of Treasury and mortgage- backed securities by a total of 10 billion dollars in both December and January, citing strengthening economy and continued improvement in the labor market.
The Fed policymakers have suggested they would continue to reduce the bond buying, which now totals 65 billion dollars a month, at a similar pace at each Fed meeting and end it by the end of 2014, provided the economy develops generally in line with expectations.
Yellen also highlighted the Fed's financial regulatory role, saying that the work of making the financial system more robust " has not yet been completed."