Business conditions for the U.S. middle market improved strongly from a year ago, according to the latest Middle Market Business Index compiled by RSM US LLP. The fourth-quarter index rose to 120.1, up from a calendar-year low of 115.6 in the third quarter. Readings above 100 indicate an expanding middle market. RSM Chief Economist Joseph Brusuelas said the index shows business conditions for the middle market improved strongly from this point a year ago, when the index performed at its all-time low of 114.5. "This quarter, survey respondents reported an uptick in overall business sentiment, with an expectation of increasing capital expenditures, hiring and compensation -- all of which are critical to U.S. economic growth," Brusuelas said. "We have been on a good run of strong job gains, and the results show businesses are benefiting from consumer confidence driving overall spending." The survey panel of 700 middle-market executives was polled before the presidential election.