CFOs' optimism about the U.S. economy improved markedly late last year, rising to 65.50 in the fourth quarter from 55.20 in the third quarter, according to a survey conducted by Financial Executives International and Baruch College's Zicklin School of Business. The CFOs' outlook on their own companies rose to 73, up from 69.1 in the third quarter. And when it came to the global outlook, U.S. CFOs' optimism about the global economy came in at 64.30, beating the 58.20 reading from European CFOs.

In the latest survey, 64% of U.S. CFOs say they plan to hire additional workers in the next six months, vs. just 56% who cited hiring plans in October.

In contrast to their upbeat views on the economy, CFOs are pessimistic about healthcare reform, with 59% saying the law has had a negative effect on the country and just 17% saying it has had a positive effect. Sixty-four percent say healthcare reform has had a negative impact on their business, vs. just 4% who say it has had a positive effect on their business.

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