RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Enthusiasm is running a bit higher in executive suites these days despite increasing interest rates and energy prices, two new surveys point out.

“Optimism from chief financial officers jumped this quarter,” reports the quarterly survey of chief financial officers from around the globe as conducted by Duke’s Fuqua Business School and CFO Magazine. CFO enthusiasm is at its highest point in a year.

And a survey from auditing and business services firm Grant Thornton reports that 62 percent of business leaders believe they will “hit” sales targets for the next six months. That’s up 8 percent from a similar survey in May of last year.

While CFOs expressed concerns about interest rates, energy costs and health insurance premiums in the Duke survey, they were for the most part upbeat.

“Increased business optimism bodes well for the economy,” said John Graham, a finance professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and director of the survey, in a statement. “After several quarters of falling expectations, CFOs now see fewer reasons to hold back spending.”

The Duke and CFO Magazine folks note that optimism among CFOs is important. “This is a sign that we can expect the economy to pick up over the rest of the year,” Graham said.

Sixty percent of CFOS said they plan to increase capital spending this year, and 59 percent plan to expand payrolls.

Go here for specifics about the poll.

The Grant Thornton survey, meanwhile, found that 26 percent of leaders surveyed expect their companies to exceed sales targets.

Many execs are thinking aggressively, too. Some 61 percent are “pursuing growth opportunities beyond their current products and markets”, and 63 percent said that adding new products and services and entering new markets are “critical to their growth strategies”.

“Our most recent national survey shows that executives across the country are increasingly optimistic that they will hit their upcoming sales goals,” said Mike McGuire, Carolinas Managing Partner for Grant Thornton, in a statement. “To accomplish this, many executives are becoming more innovative and flexible in delivering products and services to their customers.”

IBM STEPS UP EXPANSION IN INDIA

Talk about outsourcing.

Big Blue is going to spend $200 million and hire thousands of new workers in India as it concentrates development solutions at a new center in Bangalore, InformationWeek reports.

“Until this, we depended on any number of solution development centers across the globe. We’re moving all of that development to India,” Jeby Cherian, the head of IBM’s new Global Solutions Delivery Center, told InformationWeek.

IBM now employs 39,000 people in India, an increase of 16,000 over a year ago, InformationWeek noted. That number will hit 60,000 by 2007, representing 20 percent of IBM’s workforce compared to 150,000 in the U.S., the publication noted.