Three-quarters of senior finance executives globally expect economic expansion over the next 12 months, according to a new survey.

With many companies sitting on large cash surpluses, deal-making tops the list when it comes to plans for capital deployment; 69 percent are focused on aggressive M&A activity over the next year. T he American Express/CFO Research Global Business & Spending Monitor survey of 665 senior finance executives also found that over half (54 percent) see economic growth accelerating in the second or third quarter of 2011.  Fully 71 percent predict growth by year-end.

Respondents say their companies will use cash somewhat or very aggressively in the next 12 months for each of the following activities: 68 percent will use cash to expand operating activities and headcount, 65 percent plan to increase capital spending, and 63 percent aim to pay down debt.

Lessons learned in the downturn will lead to a more cautious approach. For example, 76 percent of the respondents said they will conduct more rigorous due diligence of M&A opportunities. Finance executives also said they would spend more on market access and nearly half (48 percent) plan to increase sales headcount.

Almost half (46 percent) of the senior finance executives plan to invest more in service over the next 12 months. Two in five (41 percent) of the respondents said they would spend more on travel this year, up from just 26 percent a year ago. 

For the full report, click here.

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