Financial services leaders in the U.S. are lowering their expectations for the country's economy, according to the Business Optimism Index, a quarterly survey by Grant Thornton LLP.

The survey found that 61% of respondents believe the economy will improve in the next six months, down from 72% three months earlier. Meanwhile, 8% believe the economy will worsen, a slight increase from 3% in the last survey.

At the same time, 58% don't believe Dodd-Frank will improve accountability and transparency in the financial system.

"The financial services industry in particular is facing unprecedented change. As we approach the one-year anniversary of Dodd-Frank, firms are still trying to get a handle on how they are going to meet the increased compliance burden while still executing their plans for growth," Nichole Jordan, national banking and securities industry leader at Grant Thornton, said in a press release.

"However, the silver lining in this index is that financial services firms are more optimistic about their own business prospects — we've seen that firms are focusing on organic growth and mergers as ways to get ahead in the current environment," Jordan said.

A strong majority (92%) responded that they are very or somewhat optimistic about their own business, compared with 85% who answered favorably in the previous survey. Only 8% are very or somewhat pessimistic about their business, while 15% expressed pessimism in the previous survey. Forty-four percent said they plan to increase staff, almost the same percentage as three months before, when 45% said they planned to increase hiring. In a positive sign, fewer said they would reduce staff.

The survey was conducted by an outside polling organization from May 19 to June 3, of 377 senior executives from various industries, 76 of whom were in financial services, defined as banking, investment banking, brokerage and securities companies.

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