Senior executives at U.S. multinational companies have a positive outlook on the U.S. economy, both now and over the next 12 months, according to a recent poll by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. According to the firm’s survey of 177 senior executives, 60% say the U.S. economy is now expanding, up from 26% in the second quarter. Just 3% say the economy is declining, while 37% see no change. Looking ahead 12 months, an even larger majority, 73%, is optimistic about the direction of the economy, up 10 points from the second quarter, said PricewaterhouseCoopers. The more positive outlook may be the result of several key indicators looking better. The Gross Domestic Product of the U.S. grew 7.2% in the third quarter and is on track to have expanded 4.3% for all of 2003, with predictions of 4% growth next year. Consumer prices have stayed flat largely due to falling energy prices, dampening inflation concerns and encouraging the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low. "After three years of stagnation, executives have turned sharply upbeat in their perceptions of the U.S. economy and its near-term direction," said Gerald Ward, who headed up the poll. "Although the prospect for new job creation remains flat, the outlook for new capital spending has improved."