(Reuters) - Borrowings by U.S. companies for capital investments rose 3 percent in January, compared with a year earlier, the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA) said.
Companies signed up for $6.2 billion in new loans, leases and lines of credit last month, according to the Washington-based trade group that reports economic activity for the $1 trillion equipment finance sector.
"The increase in January 2017 originations gets the year off on the right foot," ELFA Chief Executive Ralph Petta said in a statement.
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However, the potential effects of more business-friendly policy pronouncements by the new Trump administration on the amount and nature of capital investment in the United States are yet to be known, Petta added.
Credit approvals for all applications submitted in January was 75.4 percent, down from 77.4 percent in December, ELFA said.
ELFA's leasing and finance index measures the volume of commercial equipment financed in the United States. It is designed to complement the U.S. Commerce Department's durable goods orders report, which it typically precedes by a few days.
ELFA's index is based on a survey of 25 members that include Bank of America Corp <BAC.N>, BB&T Corp <BBT.N>, CIT Group Inc <CIT.N> and the financing affiliates or subsidiaries of Caterpillar Inc <CAT.N>, Deere & Co <DE.N>, Verizon Communications Inc <VZ.N>, Siemens AG <SIEGn.DE>, Canon Inc <7751.T> and Volvo AB <VOLVb.ST>.
The Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation, ELFA's non-profit affiliate, said its confidence index slipped to 72.2 in February from 73.4 in January.
A reading of above 50 indicates a positive outlook.
(Reporting by Arunima Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)