March Leasing Activity Up 45% from February, but Flat Over Past Year

Low interest rates expected to sustain business through 2013.

New business volume for a cross section of the $725 billion equipment finance sector in March was $6.8 billion, up 45 percent from February, according to the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association’s (ELFA) Monthly Leasing and Finance Index (MLFI-25). Year to date, however, cumulative new business volume was up three percent compared to 2012.

Receivables over 30 days were unchanged in March from the previous month at 2.0 percent.  They were down from 2.8 percent in the same period in 2012. Charge-offs were down slightly, returning to the all-time low of 0.3 percent from 0.4 percent in February.

Credit approvals totaled 78.4 percent in March, up 1 percent from February.  Fifty percent of participating organizations reported submitting more transactions for approval during March, down from 53 percent the previous month.

Finally, total headcount for equipment finance companieswas relatively unchanged from the previous month, and decreased 2 percent year over year.

ELFA President and CEO William G. Sutton, CAE, said: “After a sluggish February, March business activity returned to a degree of normalcy that hopefully is sustainable into the second half of the year.  The continued low interest rate environment promoted by the Fed together with relatively benign fundamentals in the broader economy bode well for businesses planning to expand and grow in the coming months and invest in capital equipment.”

Russell Nelson, President, CoBank Farm Credit Leasing, said: “Given the continuation of the low interest rate environment, favorable credit quality trends, industry discipline for sustainable growth with acceptable risk-adjusted returns, and customer demand for financing primarily replacement assets, the pace of activity in the first quarter has been steady, but less robust than the fourth quarter of 2012.  Influencing factors weighing on future capex, both replacement and expansion, are continued uncertainty and volatility in the current domestic/global economies, pending tax, accounting, and regulatory changes, and political uncertainty in Washington.

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