New borrowing from equipment finance companies dipped sharply in April amid a climate of uncertainty among business owners over economic conditions and the U.S. presidential election.
Companies signed up for $7.3 billion in new loans, leases, and lines of credit last month, down 10% from March and 12% from a year ago, according to the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA), which reports economic activity for the $1 trillion equipment finance sector.
Receivables over 30 days were 1.2%, unchanged from the previous month and up from 0.89% in the same period in 2015. Charge-offs were 0.30%, down from 0.5% the previous month.
ELFA also reported in its survey of 25 equipment finance companies that credit approvals totaled 78.2% in April, up from 77.7% in March. Total headcount for equipment finance companies was up 0.6% year over year.
“With April data showing declining originations, mixed portfolio quality, and a lower level of confidence by equipment finance executives, it appears that political uncertainty joins economic uncertainty as one of the reasons businesses are holding off investing in capital equipment at this time,” Ralph Petta, the association’s chief executive, said in a news release.
“Sluggish activity to begin the second quarter seems to have continued the relatively soft Q1, both in terms of overall equipment finance industry performance and economic activity,” he added.
ELFA’s Monthly Confidence Index for May was down four points at 55.1 from April, showing an increase in the percentage of respondents who believe conditions will worsen over the next fourth months and a drop-off in the percentage who see little change in their market.
Two-thirds of those surveyed still anticipate little change in their market or in the U.S. economy over the same period.
“The U.S. economy is stable with low interest rates serving as a prop,” Paul Menzel, CEO of Financial Pacific Leasing, said in a statement. “My concerns are with foreign economies and our own political landscape and how those will factor into the next 12 months.”