U.S. companies' borrowing to spend on capital investment rose in February, the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA) said.
Companies signed up for $5.4 billion in new loans, leases and lines of credit last month, up 15 percent from a year earlier, according to data from ELFA. Borrowing fell 10 percent from January.
"This month's increase in financing activity reflects a strengthening economy evidenced by a resilient housing market trying to return to pre-recession levels, moderate GDP growth and an improving jobs picture," ELFA Chief Executive William Sutton said in a statement.
Washington-based ELFA, a trade association that reports economic activity for the $827 billion equipment finance sector, said credit approvals totaled 75.3 percent in February, down from 76.9 percent in January.
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 rose to 65.1 in March - the highest level in two years - from 63.3 in February.
A reading of above 50 indicates a positive outlook.
(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D'Souza)