March Equipment Finance Confidence Increases

According to the March 2016 Monthly Confidence Index from the Equipment Leasing and Finance Foundation, confidence in the equipment finance industry rose to 51.6 in March from a reading of 48.3 in February.

“I believe the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong. Low energy costs, which are a net positive for small businesses and consumers, provide a hedge against recession and/or inflation,” said Paul Menzel, president and CEO of Financial Pacific Leasing, when asked about the outlook for the future. “The presidential election rancor and uncertainty will keep a damper on any substantial growth or improvement in the economy for 2016.”

When asked to assess their business conditions over the next four months, 3.2% of executives said they believe business conditions will improve over the next four months, unchanged from February. 77.4% of respondents believe business conditions will remain the same over the next four months, an increase from 71.0% in February. Meanwhile, 19.4% believe business conditions will get worsen, a decrease from 25.8% the previous month.

There was an increase in the number of survey respondents who believe demand for leases and loans to fund capital expenditures (CAPEX) will increase over the next four months, with 9.7% reporting the sentiment in March compared to 3.2% in February.

“Application volume and approvals remain strong but closing them has been difficult,” said David T. Schaefer, CEO of Mintaka Financial. “We attribute this to competitive factors from within our industry and from the alternative finance industry. There still seems to be a level of uncertainty in the small business market as well.”

There was no change in the number of executives who expect more access to capital to fund equipment acquisitions over the next four months (16.1%) but there was a decrease in the number who expect less access to capital (6.5%) compared to February (12.9%).

“There are pockets of opportunity in both types of equipment and specific industries,” said Harry Kaplun, president of Specialty Finance at Frost Bank. “That said, there are an increasing number of industries that are hitting a reset button with regard to growth and capital spending.”

All of the survey respondents evaluated the current U.S. economy as “fair,” up from 96.8% in February.

On the flip side, none of the survey respondents believe that U.S. economic conditions will get “better” over the next six months, a decrease from 6.5% who believed so in February.

“Continued growth in new business opportunities, tempered with some slowdown in the Class 8 truck market, and an increase in repossessions cause some concern,” said William H. Besgen, vice chairman of the board of directors at Hitachi Capital America.

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