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ELFA’s Survey of Economic Activity: February 2017 Leasing and Finance Index

Friday, March 24, 2017
The Equipment Leasing and Finance Association’s

(ELFA) Monthly Leasing and Finance Index (MLFI-25), which reports economic activity from 25 companies representing a cross section of the $1 trillion equipment finance sector, showed their overall new business volume for February was $5.9 billion, down 3 percent year-over-year from new business volume in February 2016. Volume was down 5 percent month-to-month from $6.2 billion in January. Year to date, cumulative new business volume was up 0.5 percent compared to 2016.

Receivables over 30 days were 1.50 percent, down from 1.70 percent the previous month and up from 1.40 percent in the same period in 2016. Charge-offs were 0.38 percent, down from 0.43 percent the previous month, and up slightly from 0.37 percent in the year-earlier period.

Credit approvals totaled 74.8 percent in February, down from 75.4 percent in January. Total headcount for equipment finance companies was up 18.6 percent year over year, a spike largely attributable to continued acquisition activity at an MLFI reporting company.

Separately, the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation’s Monthly Confidence Index (MCI-EFI) for March is 71.1, easing from the February index of 72.2 but remaining among the highest levels of the last two years.

ELFA President and CEO Ralph Petta said, “New business volume during the first couple months of 2017 continues the sluggish growth pattern that began 2016. This slow start belies the business-friendly environment that many business and economic commentators point to in characterizing the new administration in Washington. Credit quality is mixed as well. With the Fed increasing its short-term interest rate target by 25 bps at its most recent March meeting, we will be watching closely the impact—if any—on demand in the equipment finance sector.”

Miles Herman, President and COO, LEAF Commercial Capital, Inc., said, “While independent firms saw better growth, overall the industry's new business volume was de minimis compared to this point in 2016. I believe there’s reason for optimism, however, given the market’s recent surge post-election, the proposed infrastructure spending and stable oil. There are indicators of a coming manufacturing renaissance and a plan to reduce Federal taxes and regulation. But will all this translate into legislation to justify the post-election optimism? Despite equity market choppiness and rising interest rates, I’m heartened to see that the MCI-EFI shows this confidence holding steady. Combined with other indicators, this seems to indicate a hopeful, if still wait-and-see, attitude in the industry and the economy as a whole. If promised legislative changes come to pass, it’s likely we’ll see that optimism become action.”

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