Equipment Finance Market Experiences Highest Confidence Level in Two Years

The Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation has released the January 2014 Monthly Confidence Index for the Equipment Finance Industry (MCI-EFI). Designed to collect leadership data, the index reports a qualitative assessment of the prevailing business conditions and expectations for the future as reported by key executives from the $827 billion equipment finance sector. Overall, confidence in the equipment finance market is 64.9, the highest confidence level in two years, and an increase from the December index of 55.8. An improved general outlook for economic activity among industry leadership contributed to the increase.

When asked about the outlook for the future, MCI survey respondent David Schaefer, CEO, Mintaka Financial LLC, says: “We’re optimistic about 2014 as we come off of a very strong Q4. The recent federal budget deal is positive since it takes some uncertainty out of the market. Employment gains were also positive and this should bring more equipment demand and, therefore, financing opportunities. Margins are still being compressed as capital is abundant but demand remains fairly neutral.”

The overall MCI-EFI is 64.9, an increase from the December index of 55.8.

When asked to assess their business conditions over the next four months, 33 percent of executives responding said they believe business conditions will improve over the next four months, up from 12 percent in December. Sixty-one percent of respondents believe business conditions will remain the same over the next four months, down from 78.8 percent in December. Five and two-thirds percent believe business conditions will worsen, down from 9 percent who believed so the previous month.

Thirty-six percent of survey respondents believe demand for leases and loans to fund capital expenditures (capex) will increase over the next four months, up from 15.2 percent in December. Sixty-one percent believe demand will “remain the same” during the same four-month time period, down from 78.8 percent the previous month. Just under 3 percent believe demand will decline, down from 9 percent who believed so in December.

Twenty-five percent of executives expect more access to capital to fund equipment acquisitions over the next four months, relatively unchanged from December. Seventy-five percent of survey respondents indicate they expect the “same” access to capital to fund business, and no one expects “less” access to capital, both also unchanged from the previous month.

When asked, 33 percent of the executives reported they expect to hire more employees over the next four months, an increase from 27.3 percent in December. More than 58 percent expect no change in headcount over the next four months, down from 60.6 percent last month. Just over 8 percent expect fewer employees, down from 12 percent who expected fewer employees in December.

Just under 3 percent of the leadership evaluates the current U.S. economy as “excellent,” down from 6 percent last month. And 94.4 percent of the leadership evaluates the current U.S. economy as “fair,” up from 85 percent last month. Just under 3 percent rate it as “poor,” down from 9 percent in December.

About 42 percent of the of survey respondents believe that U.S. economic conditions will get “better” over the next six months, an increase from 24.2 percent who believed so in December. And 55.6 percent of survey respondents indicate they believe the U.S. economy will “stay the same” over the next six months, a decrease from 66.7 percent in December. Just under 3 percent believe economic conditions in the U.S. will worsen over the next six months, a decrease from 9 percent in December.

In January, 55.6 percent of respondents indicate they believe their company will increase spending on business development activities during the next six months, an increase from 30.3 percent in December. Thirty-nine percent believe there will be “no change” in business development spending, a decrease from 66.7 percent last month. About 6 percent believe there will be a decrease in spending, an increase from 3 percent who believed so last month.

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