ELFF: Q3/2019 Update Forecasts 2.5% GDP Growth

After two consecutive years of solid growth, equipment and software investment growth is likely to slow in 2019 to 3.9% (down from 4.5% in the Q2 update of the Economic Outlook published in April), according to the Q3 update to the 2019 Equipment Leasing & Finance U.S. Economic Outlook released today by the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation.

Business conditions for the equipment finance industry softened in the first half of the year as the U.S manufacturing sector weakened, and investment growth in several key verticals is expected to slow or contract in the second half of 2019.

Jeffry D. Elliott, Foundation chairman and senior managing director of Huntington Equipment Finance, said, “Consumer confidence has eased this year while consumer spending has moderated. Large businesses are showing signs of pulling back, though small businesses remain upbeat. In light of stronger-than-expected growth in Q1, the economy is expected to grow 2.5% in 2019, up from the previous estimate of 2.2%.”

Highlights from the report include:

  • Capital spending slowed in the beginning of 2019, consistent with declining macroeconomic fundamentals. Business investment faces further downside risk if the industrial sector continues to fade, and trade relations remain turbulent. Although banks continue to tighten lending standards to consumers amid waning credit demand among businesses and consumers, overall credit market conditions remain mostly healthy. Financial stress remains relatively low by historical standards, though both delinquencies and charge-offs are on the rise.
  • After achieving 2.9% growth in 2018 — tied with 2015 for the strongest year of growth of the current business cycle — the U.S. economy expanded at a healthy 3.1% pace in the first quarter, exceeding expectations. However, trade frictions are undoubtedly contributing to the softness in the U.S. manufacturing sector, which continued to struggle in Q2 and does not appear to be on the verge of a rebound.
  • Though domestic oil production has been a key bright spot for the U.S. economy and the increasingly dovish Federal Reserve has helped buoy financial markets, there are several risk factors that merit close attention for the rest of the year. Risks include the efficacy of China’s efforts to stimulate its economy, the divergence between small- and big-business optimism, and the potential for a protracted slowdown in consumer spending later this year.

Included in the report, the Foundation-Keybridge U.S. Equipment & Software Investment Momentum Monitor tracks 12 equipment and software investment verticals, with several verticals expected to remain steady in the second half of 2019. Over the next three to six months:

  • Agricultural machinery investment growth is likely to remain modestly positive
  • Construction machinery investment growth is likely to weaken further and potentially stall
  • Materials handling equipment investment growth is likely to weaken and may turn negative
  • All other industrial equipment investment growth will likely weaken and may stall
  • Medical equipment investment should grow at a moderate pace
  • Mining and oilfield machinery investment growth is likely to remain steady
  • Aircraft investment growth is likely to remain negative
  • Ships and boats investment growth may remain sluggish and may stall
  • Railroad equipment investment growth is unlikely to improve and may worsen
  • Trucks investment is expected to grow moderately
  • Computers investment growth will likely continue to weaken, potentially into negative territory
  • Software investment growth should remain solid

The Foundation produces the Equipment Leasing & Finance U.S. Economic Outlook report in partnership with economic and public policy consulting firm Keybridge Research. The 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.

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