Financial executives at U.S. firms are growing increasingly optimistic about the economy, and they expect “robust growth” in earnings and capital spending, according to a new survey from Duke University and CFO Magazine.

The optimism of the chief financial officers is at its highest since early 2007 before the global recession struck. Fixty-six percent of CFOs say their optimism increased this quarter.

The CFOs project an 18 percent growth in earnings with dividends climbing 14 percent. That spike in dividends is the biggest in the 15-year history of the survey.

Capital spending is expected to increase 12 percent.

(Good news for tech sector in survey: Read WRAL Tech Wire’s report here.

Despite the positive views, however, the executives say the increasing in hiring is likely to be slow. Jobs are forecast to increase 1.2 percent.

Manpower issued a similar survey reflecting modest hiring on Tuesday. (Read the details here.)

Plus, they are concerned about inflation.

In some job categories, the executives said talent is in strong demand.

Skilled workers in demand are: engineering, product development, information technology, finance and announcing.

The overall findings in the survey are encouraging, said John Graham, the director of the survey who is a professor of finance at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.
“Increasing optimism is good news for the U.S. economy going forward,”Graham said. “Historically, we have found that increases in optimism lead to stronger GDP growth, spending and employment within a year.”

The survey, which is based on data gathered through March 3, included 854 chief financial officers from both private and public companies.

For more details from the survey, read here.

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