Like the longer-living U.S. population, the current economic expansion in the United States is lasting much longer than recoveries from recession once did. Now into its ninth year, the recovery from 1991's recession could very well extend into 2000. Indeed, Merrill Lynch & Co., New York, has just revised upward its GDP projections for this year and next. The firm now projects 3.8% growth in 1999, up from 3.6%, and 3% for 2000, up from 2.6%. "We don't see anything that will slow the economy much this year," says Bruce Steinberg, Merrill Lynch's chief economist. The latest look at the leading U.S. economic indicators from the Conference Board, New York, gives credence to an optimistic outlook. The leading index rose 0.2% in February, and the mix of data suggest the expansion "will continue through at least late-1999," says the business-research group. In the shorter term, CEOs of midsized, high-growth U.S. companies belonging to the American Business Conference (ABC), Washington, D.C., expect sales and profits to be higher during the current calendar quarter. A net 67% foresee sales greater than first-quarter levels; a net 20% anticipate higher margins. What's more, "our companies still see life in the economic expansion beyond the second quarter," adds ABC President Barry Rogstad.