CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Chief financial officers expect little change in the U.S. economy through the end of the year, financial services firm Grant Thornton reported in a new survey this week.

While 28 percent of those surveyed said they expected the economy to worse, 59 percent expected it to remain the same and another 13 percent see improvement.

Reflecting those views, 37 percent expect their companies to improve their bottom line performance as the year comes to a close. Another 50 percent expect no change.

Inflation, however, could be a problem. The financial officers were evenly split — 47 percent on each side — as to whether inflation will remain the same or increase. Six percent expect no change.

Energy costs are not expected to affect company performance by 57 percent of those surveyed.

The job market remains strong, however. The national unemployment rate is at 4.4 percent, and 29 percent of the CFOs and controllers participating in the survey expect to increase hiring. Only 16 percent plan to reduce hiring, Grant Thornton said.

However, some news is not good for retirees. Eleven percent of the CFOs said their firms plan to make cuts in healthcare benefits for retirees over the next year.

The survey, which was conducted in August, included 369 finance executives at public and private companies with revenues ranging from under $50 million to more than $2 billion.

Grant Thornton: