A new survey conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School indicates that pessimism about the U.S. among accounting professionals has eased.

Survey results indicate 52 percent of CPA executives expressing pessimism about the U.S. economy over the next 12 months, a decline of 30 percentage points from the first quarter's all-time high of 83 percent of respondents who had said they were pessimistic or very pessimistic.

According to Arleen Thomas, AICPA's senior vice president for member competency and development, the shift in sentiment indicates financial executives and CPAs see the economy contracting at a slower pace and suggests the U.S. recession may be reaching a bottom.

For the first time in a year, sentiment is improving in our quarterly economic outlook survey.” She said.

“We see a significant shift from pessimistic to neutral on the economy which suggests a leveling of confidence. At the same time, CFOs and CPAs are remaining cautious as they continue to grapple with difficult decisions within their organizations.

This is the first encouraging news we've seen in a long time, said UNC Kenan-Flagler Accounting Professor Mark Lang, Ph.D. There seems to be a broad consensus that the worst of the downturn is over for the US economy.”

The respondents still expect the downturn to last until 2010. Forty percent expect a recovery in the first half of 2010, consistent with 41 percent in the prior survey who didn't expect recovery to begin until the first half of 2010.