Equipment leasing and finance industry confidence increases to six month high

The Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation (ELFF) just released its October 2016 Monthly Confidence Index for the Equipment Finance Industry (MCI-EFI).

Designed to collect leadership data, the index reports a qualitative assessment of the prevailing business conditions and expectations for the future as reported by key executives from the $1 trillion equipment finance sector.

ELFI 2016Overall, confidence in the equipment finance market is 56.0, an increase from the September index of 53.8, and the highest level since April despite continued concerns about the November elections.

When asked about the outlook for the future, MCI-EFI survey respondent Frank Campagna, M&T Bank Corporation’s commercial equipment finance business line manager said, “We continue to see strong demand from our core commercial and industrial business throughout all regions of our footprint and via all finance product sets and asset classes. Our business optimism is tempered somewhat by the continued downward price pressure by some of our competitors, but that does not discount the fact that our customers are in the market and acquiring equipment. Some sectors related to infrastructure, albeit softer than in years past — especially those related to energy — continue to provide equipment financing opportunity and are poised for some significant growth in 2017.”

October 2016 survey results
When asked to assess their business conditions over the next four months, 12.1 percent of responding executives said they believe business conditions will improve over the next four months, a decrease from 18.8 percent in September;81.8 percent of respondents believe business conditions will remain the same over the next four months, an increase from 62.5 percent in September; 6.1 percent believe business conditions will worsen, a decrease from 18.8 percent the previous month.

24.2 percent of survey respondents believe demand for leases and loans to fund capital expenditures (capex) will increase over the next four months, a decrease from 28.1 percent in September; 57.6 percent believe demand will “remain the same” during the same four-month time period, up from 53.1 percent the previous month; 18.2 percent believe demand will decline, down slightly from 18.8 percent who believed so in September.

18.2 percent of the respondents expect more access to capital to fund equipment acquisitions over the next four months, an increase from none who expected more in September. 75.8 percent of executives indicate they expect the “same” access to capital to fund business, a decrease from 96.9 percent the previous month; 6.1 percent expect “less” access to capital, an increase from 3.1 percent last month.

When asked, 30.3 percent of the executives reported they expect to hire more employees over the next four months, an increase from 21.9 percent in September; 60.6 percent expect no change in headcount over the next four months, a decrease from 71.9 percent last month; and 9.1 percent expect to hire fewer employees, up from 6.3 percent in September.

None of the leadership evaluate the current U.S. economy as “excellent,” unchanged from last month. 93.9 percent of the leadership evaluate the current U.S. economy as “fair,” a decrease from 100.0 percent last month; and 6.1 percent evaluate it as “poor,” an increase from none in September.

15.2 percent of the survey respondents believe that U.S. economic conditions will get “better” over the next six months, an increase from 6.3 percent in September. 69.7 percent of survey respondents indicate they believe the U.S. economy will “stay the same” over the next six months, a decrease from 75.0 percent the previous month. 15.2 percent believe economic conditions in the U.S. will worsen over the next six months, a decrease from 18.8 percent who believed so last month.

In October, 36.4 percent of respondents indicate they believe their company will increase spending on business development activities during the next six months, a decrease from 40.6 percent in September.63.6 percent believe there will be “no change” in business development spending, an increase from 53.1 percent the previous month. None believe there will be a decrease in spending, a decrease from 6.3 percent who believed so last month.

October 2016 MCI-EFI survey comments from industry executive leadership
Independent, Small Ticket
“Demand seems constant as businesses begin to wrap up their equipment acquisition plans for 2016. The elephant in the room is the elections. I believe the issues that are not being addressed may have significant ramifications for small- to mid-size businesses in 2017. It is too early to tell, but the political climate is not adding to anyone's confidence levels.” -- Valerie Hayes Jester, President, Brandywine Capital Associates

Bank, Middle Ticket
“Despite political and economic uncertainty, pockets of robust growth exist in the U.S. equipment finance market.” -- Alan Sikora, CEO, First American Equipment Finance, a City National Bank Company

Independent, Middle Ticket
“The uncertain political environment seems to be causing some of the smaller medium-size businesses to delay equipment purchases. Hopefully, this will change after the elections.” -- William H. Besgen, Senior Advisor, Vice Chairman Emeritus, Hitachi Capital America Corp.

Bank, Large Ticket
“The rate environment continues to make financing equipment a good option for most companies. Concerns center around the impact of the election season. When the U.S. raises rates, it will negatively impact those companies reliant on exporting.” -- Thomas Partridge, President, Fifth Third Equipment Finance

Why an MCI-EFI?
Confidence in the U.S. economy and the capital markets is a critical driver to the equipment finance industry. Throughout history, when confidence increases, consumers and businesses are more apt to acquire more consumer goods, equipment and durables, and invest at prevailing prices. When confidence decreases, spending and risk-taking tend to fall. Investors are said to be confident when the news about the future is good and stock prices are rising.

Who participates in the MCI-EFI?
The respondents are comprised of a wide cross section of industry executives, including large-ticket, middle-market and small-ticket banks, independents and captive equipment finance companies. The MCI-EFI uses the same pool of 50 organization leaders to respond monthly to ensure the survey’s integrity. Since the same organizations provide the data from month to month, the results constitute a consistent barometer of the industry's confidence.

How is the MCI-EFI designed?
The survey consists of seven questions and an area for comments, asking the respondents’ opinions about the following:
1. Current business conditions
2. Expected product demand over the next four months
3. Access to capital over the next four months
4. Future employment conditions
5. Evaluation of the current U.S. economy
6. U.S. economic conditions over the next six months
7. Business development spending expectations
8. Open-ended question for comment

How to access the MCI-EFI
Survey results are posted on the Foundation website. Survey respondent demographics and additional information about the MCI are also available at this link.