The fourth edition of our Accountants Confidence Index offered a slightly more optimistic outlook for the holiday season and the start of 2012. The ACI, created in partnership with ADP, is a monthly economic indicator that leverages the insights of accountants into the strength and prospects of businesses in the U.S.

Both the 3-Month and 6-Month ACI readings for this month turned upward -- and perhaps more significantly, for the first time since we began collecting the ACI data, our respondents indicated that they expect the U.S. economy as a whole to expand in both the short- and the mid-term.

The ACI is created from a monthly poll of the Accounting Today Executive Research Council, an online community of more than 1,500 tax and accounting professionals, who are asked to provide their estimates of the growth prospects of their own firms, their small, midsized and large business clients, and of the U.S. economy as a whole. Their responses are weighted and averaged to produce the ACI.