The latest installment of our Accountants Confidence Index, the second of the new year, continued 2012's unfortunate declining trend. 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 dropped again, though not quite as sharply as last month, with our panel foreseeing contraction for the U.S. economy in both the short- and the mid-term. Perhaps more alarming is the continuing downward trend of the forecasts that our respondents are giving for their own firms. When we began the ACI, these predictions were generally in the low 60s, well above those for clients and the economy as a whole; now, they are heading for he less-hopeful mid-50s.

We also asked our panel how crazy they think this crazy season will get -- their answers are below.

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.