) -- It was a funny day for the

Federal Reserve


First, the minutes of the latest meeting of the central bank's open market committee in early November revealed an odd preoccupation with being a better communicator. Ironically, this desire was expressed in dense passages such as the following:

"A few members expressed interest in using language specifying a period of time during which the federal funds rate was expected to remain exceptionally low, rather than a calendar date, arguing that such language might be better to indicate a constant stance of monetary policy over time," the


read. "However, members generally preferred to retain the existing forward guidance, at least for now. A few members indicated that they believed the economic outlook might warrant additional policy accommodation. However, it was noted that any such accommodation would likely be more effective if it were provided in the context of a future communications initiative, and most of these members agreed that they could support retention of the current policy stance at this meeting."

Yikes. Basically, this means QE3 is coming, the Fed just wants to float the idea for a while first, set the stage a bit better, and see how the markets react. That's not anything worth rallying over just yet as more stimulus

has been expected for a while

with most observers projecting its arrival in the first or second calendar quarter of fiscal 2012.

It's almost like the Fed is a mumbling suitor, covering its mouth as it asks for a date so it can turn around and say that wasn't what it meant if the response is negative.

Then after the market close, the Fed

announced plans to subject U.S. banks with total assets of $50 billion or more to stress tests

. Thirty-one institutions are involved, including 19 that have previously endured the process, old familiar names like

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report



(C) - Get Report

, and another 12 who haven't.

The tests have a number of wrinkles with the capital plans of most of the participants being subject to a scenario approximating what would happen if the U.S. economy "were to experience a deep recession while at the same time economic activity in other major economies were also to contract significantly."

In addition, the six largest firms are being asked to estimate "potential losses stemming from a hypothetical global market shock" that will be based on what happened in the second half of 2008, sweetly characterized as "a time of significant volatility" as well as "potential sharp market price movements in European sovereign and financial sectors."

File this move under

better safe than sorry

for the time being. Keeping a close rein on the banks is just sound thinking these days. But coming on the heels of the release of a particularly rambling batch of FOMC minutes, the news does have an incongruous feel to it.

There's a lot of rhetoric still bubbling up about how the recovery is still intact, and the latest data, despite Tuesday's downward adjustment to third-quarter gross domestic product, is indicative of that. But the Fed's pining for QE3 -- despite the fact that $600 billion did little to help the economy last time around -- and another round of stress tests at this juncture show there's still plenty of apprehension among the deep thinkers.

Wednesday's scheduled news includes plenty of economic data because of the Thanksgiving holiday. The list includes the usual weekly jobless claims data at 8:30 a.m. ET; personal income and spending for October, also at 8:30 a.m. ET; durable goods orders for October at 8:30 a.m. ET; and the final reading on consumer sentiment for November from the University of Michigan at 9:55 a.m. ET.

Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at

High Frequency Economics

, says initial claims may bump up to 395,000, higher than a consensus view of 390,000.


We think the odds favor a modest correction in the weekly jobless claims numbers, following three straight declines," he wrote. "A combination of numerology -- claims never move in a straight line, even when the underlying trend is very strong -- and our analysis of the seasonal adjustments suggests a small increase is a decent bet."

The earnings calendar is light though, led by


(DE) - Get Report

, which reports its fiscal fourth-quarter results before Wednesday's opening bell. Wall Street is looking for earnings of $1.43 a share in the October-ended period on revenue of $7.87 billion.

Shares of the Moline, Ill.-based farming equipment maker are down more than 12% so far in 2011, and sentiment on the sell side is mildly bullish with 12 of the 21 analysts covering the stock at either strong buy (6) or buy (6), although the median 12-month price target of $87 implies potential upside of nearly 21% from Tuesday's closed at $71.92.

Deere has topped the consensus view in eight straight quarter but revenue is seen rising somewhat on a sequential basis while profits are expected to drop. Not the best of trends.

Other companies slated to report include

Diana Shipping

(DSX) - Get Report


New Jersey Resources

(NJR) - Get Report



(SOL) - Get Report

, and

Yingli Green Energy Holding



And finally,


(NFLX) - Get Report

continues to look vulnerable, despite scraping a new 52-week low of $69 on Tuesday before closing at $70.45. The DVD rental and streaming content company's decision to raise more capital got greeted about as well as the move to boost subscription prices did this summer.

BMO Capital Markets took the news in relative stride but stressed that the stakes next month are very high.

"With improving net subscriber levels through November, we believe that the company is successfully distancing itself from the challenges of the significant increase in subscription rates;" the firm said. "December remains critical -- as that's when we should see a return to net subscriber growth."

BMO, which has a market perform rating on the stock, doesn't see any change in Netflix's content acquisition strategy as result of the capital raise, which includes the sale of $200 million worth of equity and $200 million worth of debt.


Written by Michael Baron in New York.

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Michael Baron


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