The Equipment Leasing and Finance Association’s (ELFA) Monthly Leasing and Finance Index (MLFI-25), which reports economic activity for the $628 billion equipment finance sector, showed overall new business volume for April was $6.1 billion, up 20 percent from volume of $5.1 billion in the same period in 2011. Volume was down 10 percent from the previous month. Year-to-date cumulative new business volume is up 17 percent.
Receivables over 30 days decreased to 2.7 percent in April, down from 2.8 percent in March, and down by 18 percent compared to the same period in 2011. Charge-offs decreased to 0.6 percent, down from 0.7 percent the previous month, and down by 25 percent compared to the same period last year.
Credit approvals decreased to 76 percent in April from 78 percent in March. Seventy-six percent of participating organizations reported submitting more transactions for approval during April, up from 67 percent in March.
Finally, total headcount for equipment finance companies in April increased 0.7 percent from the previous month, and was down 4.1 percent year over year. Supplemental data show that the construction and trucking industries continued to lead the underperforming sectors.
Separately, the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation's Monthly Confidence Index (MCI-EFI) for May is 59.2, down slightly from the April index of 62.1, reflecting uncertainty about the pace of U.S. economic growth and concerns about global political and economic factors.
ELFA President and CEO William G. Sutton, CAE, said, "April's new business volume and credit quality metrics appear to provide evidence that the equipment finance sector continues to gain momentum. Recent anecdotal information from ELFA members gathering in Washington, D.C., for a series of leadership meetings in mid-May supports the observation that the demand cycle for capital equipment parallels the broader economy in that both continue to strengthen, albeit slowly."
Judson M. Snyder, President of BMO Harris Equipment Finance Company, headquartered in Milwaukee, WI, said, "We are seeing strong demand for financing in the transportation and energy sectors beginning in the end of 2011 and continuing through April of 2012. Many of these companies postponed replacing equipment during the financial crisis and are faced with the choice of increasing maintenance costs on older equipment or purchasing new. The ongoing historically low interest rate environment has made today an attractive time to replace and finance that equipment. We are also beginning to see requests for equipment relating to expansion and new contracts in the general manufacturing sector. These types of projects are a sign of a firmer economic recovery, and we are hopeful that they will continue to develop throughout the summer and fall of 2012."
The MLFI-25 is the only index that reflects capex, or the volume of commercial equipment financed in the U.S. The MLFI-25 is a financial indicator that complements the durable goods report and other economic indexes, including the Institute for Supply Management Index, which reports economic activity in the manufacturing sector. Together with the MLFI-25 these reports provide a complete view of the status of productive assets in the U.S. economy: equipment produced, acquired and financed.
The MLFI-25 is a time series that reflects two years of business activity for the 25 companies currently participating in the survey.