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Yellen push back at hawks creates confusion

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Fed Chair Janet Yellen attempted to reassure markets that the U.S. central bank will move cautiously with further rate hikes, pushing back at recent hawkish comments from other Fed officials. But the Fed chair also managed to unleash a backlash from some of Wall Street's more often staid economists.

Yellen, speaking to The Economic Club of New York, said that it is appropriate to proceed with caution in moving policy, and that economic and financial conditions are somewhat less favorable than in December when the Fed raised interest rates for the first time in nine years.

But some Fed watchers thought Yellen's message was murkier than usual and raised doubts about the central bank's forecasts and monetary path.

"Janet Yellen gave her audience limited lip service to 'baseline' projections and expectations for dual mandate improvement and rate normalization, but carpet-bombed her audience with possible downside caveats. In so doing, she created the distinct impression that she had little confidence in the Fed's baseline outlook," wrote Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies, in a note.

Read MoreYellen: Economic readings mixed, appropriate to be cautious