The majority of bankers are optimistic about the US economy in coming months, with 45% expecting conditions to improve over the next six months, according to a survey by US audit firm Grant Thornton LLP. It marks a significant improvement over the same survey six months earlier, which found 24% of respondents expected conditions to improve. The survey found that 44% of respondents expect conditions to remain the same over six months, compared with 56% in the December 2009 survey. Eleven percent now expect economic conditions go get worse, compared with 20% in December: "Bankers across the country are starting to become more optimistic about both the US economy and their own local economy," noted John Ziegelbauer, national managing partner of Grant Thornton's financial institutions practice. "Their optimism about the economy is spilling over into their own banks, with bankers reporting that they are also cautiously optimistic about the number of people they expect to hire in the coming months," Ziegelbauer added. "Overall, it appears that bankers believe that the economy has finally turned a corner." More than one-third, or 35%, of respondents expect their local economy to improve in the next six months, up from 22% in December. Meanwhile, the share of respondents expecting their local economy has halved to 9% from 18% in December. One-quarter of respondents said their bank would increase hiring in the next six months, up from 18% in December, while the number of bankers indicating plans to decrease the staff fell slightly to 16% from 18%. Grant Thornton, the US member firm of audit, tax and advisory firm Grant Thornton International, conducted the survey of 230 banking respondents during May. Of the responding bankers, 59% were from small banks, with remaining 41% working for large banks. The change in sentiment for the US economy among bankers arrives as international investors are predicting a double dip recession in Europe and naming pockets of property investment on the continent. Write to Diana Golobay.