The confidence level of CFOs in the U.S. economy showed signs of improvement for the first time in over two years, even as optimism about their own companies declined, according to a new survey.

The quarterly survey by Financial Executives International and Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business found that their CFO Optimism Index for the U.S. economy increased to 41.90, following an all-time low last quarter of 38.96. However, the CFO Optimism Index for the CFOs’ own companies plummeted to an all-time low of 51.44 from 58.93 the previous quarter.

An overwhelming 90 percent of the 270 CFOs forecast an end to the recession by the first half of 2011, but 56 percent are spending their companies’ funds cautiously.

About 27 percent of the CFOs surveyed have increased their interest in making acquisitions. They cited the following signs of improvement: positive first-quarter earnings, expectations of reporting positive second-quarter earnings, increased cash flow compared to the previous quarter, and increased consumer demand.

The survey also showed bleak prospects for recent graduates and paid summer interns. Of the companies surveyed that do hire, nearly 95 percent have either hired less or the same amount as the previous year. Of companies that historically have hired paid summer interns, approximately 61 percent are hiring fewer paid interns.

In terms of sentiment toward the current administration, 23 percent of the respondents expressed confidence in President Obama, a big increase compared to 9 percent last quarter. However, 73 percent of the CFOs gave Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner a “C” grade or worse.

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