Equipment Leasing and Finance Industry Confidence at Two-Year High for Third Consecutive Month

The Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation (the Foundation) has released the May 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 65.4, relatively unchanged from 65.1 last month, peaking at the highest index level in two years for the third consecutive month.

When asked about the outlook for the future, MCI survey respondent, Valerie Hayes Jester, President, Brandywine Capital Associates, Inc., said, “We have experienced a transaction flow that appears to be returning to a more normal state after the winter slowdown. Companies seem to be getting back on track and ordering equipment that should have been delivered in the first quarter. I am still concerned with the longer term effects of the many changes in our healthcare system as well as still undetermined tax policies that have great impact on small businesses.”

May 2014 Survey Results:
The overall MCI-EFI is 65.4, relatively unchanged from the April index.

When asked to assess their business conditions over the next four months, 31.4% of executives responding said they believe business conditions will improve over the next four months, down from 37% in April. 68.6% of respondents believe business conditions will remain the same over the next four months, up from 60% in April. No one believes business conditions will worsen, down from 2.9% the previous month.

34.3% of survey respondents believe demand for leases and loans to fund capital expenditures (capex) will increase over the next four months, down from 37% in April. 65.7% believe demand will “remain the same” during the same four-month time period, up from 60% the previous month. No one believes demand will decline, down from 2.9% who believed so in April.

28.6% of executives expect more access to capital to fund equipment acquisitions over the next four months, unchanged from April. 71.4% of survey respondents indicate they expect the “same” access to capital to fund business, and no one expects “less” access to capital, also both unchanged from the previous month.

When asked, 40% of the executives reported they expect to hire more employees over the next four months, an increase from 37% in April. 51.4% expect no change in headcount over the next four months, down from 60% last month. 8.6% expect fewer employees, up from 2.9% who expected fewer employees in April.

2.9% of the leadership evaluates the current U.S. economy as “excellent,” 91.4% of the leadership evaluates the current U.S. economy as “fair,” and 5.7% rate it as “poor,” all unchanged from April.

37% of the survey respondents believe that U.S. economic conditions will get “better” over the next six months, an increase from 34.3% who believed so in April. 62.9% of survey respondents indicate they believe the U.S. economy will “stay the same” over the next six months, unchanged from April. No one believes economic conditions in the U.S. will worsen over the next six months, a decrease from 2.9% who believed so last month.

In May, 45.7% of respondents indicate they believe their company will increase spending on business development activities during the next six months, an increase from 40% in April. 54.3% believe there will be “no change” in business development spending, a decrease from 60% last month. No one believes there will be a decrease in spending, unchanged from last month.

Survey results are posted on the Foundation website, included in the Foundation Forecast newsletter and included in press releases. Survey respondent demographics and additional information about the MCI are also available at the link above.

Investment in Equipment and Software Is Expected to Grow

Investment in equipment and software is expected to grow 4.2 percent in 2014, according to the Q2 update to the 2014 Equipment Leasing & Finance U.S. Economic Outlook released by the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation. The Foundation increased its 2014 equipment and software investment forecast to 4.2 percent, up from 3.1 percent growth forecast in its 2014 Annual Outlook released in December 2013. The Q2 report expects equipment and software investment to steadily grow over the next six months as economic conditions solidify and business confidence continues to recover. The Foundation report, which is focused on the $827 billion equipment leasing and finance industry, forecasts 2014 equipment investment and capital spending in the United States and evaluates the effects of various related and external factors in play currently and into the foreseeable future.

William G. Sutton, CAE, President of the Foundation and President and CEO of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association, said, “The Foundation’s Outlook report reflects a strengthening economy and positive trends in equipment investment. These findings align with data from the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association’s recent Monthly Leasing and Finance Index and the Foundation’s Monthly Confidence Index. We know the cold winter has had some negative impact on the economy; however, with reduced policy uncertainty, stronger economic fundamentals and replacement demand, we remain optimistic about growth.”

Highlights from the study include:

  • The U.S. economy is expected to grow 2.8 percent in 2014, the fastest pace since the 2008-09 recession.
  • The severe weather this winter may have trimmed GDP growth by a full percentage point, but it is expected that some of the loss will be made up in subsequent quarters.
  • Equipment and software investment grew at an annualized rate of 8.9 percent in Q4 2013, following modest growth of 2.2 percent in Q3.
  • Credit supply continues to improve, and credit demand has rebounded for all business sizes.

Equipment and software investment is expected to steadily grow across most verticals, according to the Foundation-Keybridge U.S. Equipment & Software Investment Momentum Monitor, a newly expanded addition to the Outlook report. According to the Momentum Monitor, which track 12 equipment and software investment verticals:

    o Agriculture machinery investment will likely see slow growth in the first half of 2014 as both farm yields and commodity prices ease.
    o Construction machinery investment will see stronger growth later in the year, but the year-over-year growth figures will appear weak due to a high base year effect.
    o Materials handling equipment investment will experience slightly stronger growth over the next 3 to 6 months.
    o All other industrial equipment investment will likely see moderate growth over the next 3 to 6 months as the manufacturing sector’s competitiveness improves.
    o Medical equipment investment will grow, but at a more moderate pace than in the second half of 2013.
    o Mining & oilfield machinery is currently decelerating, but looks to rebound later in the year.
    o Aircraft investment will likely slow after a strong Q4, and growth will be about average for the year.
    o Ships & boats investment will likely continue at a below-average pace over the next year.
    o Railroad equipment investment will improve from its recent contraction toward modest growth.
    o Investment in trucks will exhibit high-single digit growth over the next 3 to 6 months as economic activity improves and diesel prices remain competitive.
    o Computers investment will be muted in the next 3 to 6 months after strong replacement demand over the past few quarters.
    o Software investment will be moderate in the next 3 to 6 months as companies focus on upgrading to new technology.

The Foundation produces the Equipment Leasing & Finance U.S. Economic Outlook report in partnership with economics and public policy consulting firm Keybridge Research. The annual economic forecast provides a three-to-six-month outlook for industry investment with data, including a summary of investment trends in key equipment markets, credit market conditions, the U.S. macroeconomic outlook and key economic indicators. The Q2 report is the first update to the 2014 Annual Outlook, and will be followed by two more quarterly updates before the publishing of the 2015 Annual Outlook in December. Download the full report.

Equipment Finance Market Achieves Highest Index in Two Years

The Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation has released the March 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 65.1, the highest index in two years and an increase from the February index of 63.3. The first quarter MCI levels are the three highest since April 2011.

When asked about the outlook for the future, MCI survey respondent Daryn Lecy, vice president of Operations, Stearns Bank N.A. Equipment Finance Division, says: “Considering we are coming off what are typically slower months and the likelihood that our extra-aggressive winter further impacted new business, we remain optimistic for 2014. We are fortunate to be experiencing year-over-year growth, increasing demand, and overall solid delinquency levels.”

March 2014 Survey Results
The overall MCI-EFI is 65.1, an increase from the February index of 63.3.

    When asked to assess their business conditions over the next four months, 31.4 percent of executives responding said they believe business conditions will improve over the next four months, up from 21.2 percent in February. Sixty-five point seven percent of respondents believe business conditions will remain the same over the next four months, down from 72.7 percent in February. And 2.9 percent believe business conditions will worsen, down from 6.1 percent who believed so the previous month.

    Just more than 31 percent of survey respondents believe demand for leases and loans to fund capital expenditures (capex) will increase over the next four months, up from 24.2 percent in February. And 62.9 percent believe demand will “remain the same” during the same four-month time period, down from 69.7 percent the previous month. Another 5.7 percent believe demand will decline, down from 6.1 percent who believed so in February.

    Thirty-one point four percent of executives expect more access to capital to fund equipment acquisitions over the next four months, unchanged from February. And 68.6 percent of survey respondents indicate they expect the “same” access to capital to fund business, up from 65.5 percent in February. No one expects “less” access to capital, down from 3.1 percent who expected less access the previous month.

    When asked, 40 percent of the executives reported they expect to hire more employees over the next four months, relatively unchanged from February. The other 60 percent expect no change in headcount over the next four months, up from 53 percent last month. No one expects fewer employees, down from 6.3 percent who expected fewer employees in February.

    Five point seven percent of the leadership evaluates the current U.S. economy as “excellent,” up from 3 percent last month. While 88.6 percent of the leadership evaluates the current U.S. economy as “fair,” down from 93.8 percent last month. And 5.7 percent rate it as “poor,” up from 3 percent last month.

    When asked, 31.4 percent of the of survey respondents believe that U.S. economic conditions will get “better” over the next six months, a decrease from 34.4 percent who believed so in February. And 68.6 percent of survey respondents indicate they believe the U.S. economy will “stay the same” over the next six months, an increase from 59.4 percent in February. No one believes economic conditions in the U.S. will worsen over the next six months, a decrease from 6.2 percent last month.

    In March, 45.7 percent of respondents indicate they believe their company will increase spending on business development activities during the next six months, a decrease from 56.3 percent in February. Another 54.3 percent believe there will be “no change” in business development spending, an increase from 43.8 percent last month. No one believes there will be a decrease in spending, unchanged from last month.

March 2014 MCI Survey Comments from Industry Executive Leadership

Bank, Small Ticket
“We continue to see strong growth in both applications and origination volume. We are optimistic that this trend will continue as we close out the first quarter. In addition, portfolio performance in terms of delinquencies remains very low.” David Schaefer, CEO, Mintaka Financial, LLC

Independent, Middle Ticket
“New business volume targets in our truck transportation business continue to be met or exceeded by our over 2,300 dealers nationwide in the U.S., suggesting continued strength in the economy.” William Besgen, President & COO, Hitachi Capital America Corp.

Bank, Middle Ticket
“The overall economy is fair; however, I do see an increase in capital expenditures in 2014. The capital expenditures will be made to reduce labor cost and/or replace outdated or worn out equipment.” Elaine Temple, President, Bancorpsouth Equipment Finance

Why an MCI-EFI?
Confidence in the U.S. economy and the capital markets is a critical driver to the equipment finance industry. Throughout history, when confidence increases, consumers and businesses are more apt to acquire more consumer goods, equipment and durables, and invest at prevailing prices. When confidence decreases, spending and risk-taking tend to fall. Investors are said to be confident when the news about the future is good and stock prices are rising.

Who participates in the MCI-EFI?
The respondents are comprised of a wide cross section of industry executives, including large-ticket, middle-market and small-ticket banks, independents and captive equipment finance companies. The MCI-EFI uses the same pool of 50 organization leaders to respond monthly to ensure the survey’s integrity. Since the same organizations provide the data from month to month, the results constitute a consistent barometer of the industry’s confidence.

How is the MCI-EFI designed?
The survey consists of seven questions and an area for comments, asking the respondents’ opinions about the following:
1. Current business conditions
2. Expected product demand over the next four months
3. Access to capital over the next four months
4. Future employment conditions
5. Evaluation of the current U.S. economy
6. U.S. economic conditions over the next six months
7. Business development spending expectations
8. Open-ended question for comment

How may I access the MCI-EFI?
Survey results are posted on the Foundation website, included in the Foundation Forecast newsletter and included in press releases. Survey respondent demographics and additional information about the MCI are also available at the link above.