U.S. companies borrowed more in January to spend on capital investment, the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA) said.
Companies signed up for $6 billion in new loans, leases and lines of credit last month, up 2 percent from a year earlier, but fell 44 percent from December, according to data from the ELFA.
"With fiscal pressures in Washington subsiding ... and most major U.S. economic indicators showing positive signs, we are hopeful that these factors will help promote a favorable climate for continued investment in 2014 and beyond," ELFA Chief Executive William Sutton said.
Washington-based ELFA, a trade association that reports economic activity for the $827 billion equipment finance sector, said credit approvals totaled 76.9 percent in January, down from 78.3 percent in December.
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 fell to 63.3 in January from 64.9 in December. January's reading was the second-highest in two years.
A reading of above 50 indicates a positive outlook.
(Reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D'Souza)