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U.S. business borrowing for equipment rises 4% in March - ELFA

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April 22 (Reuters) - U.S. companies' borrowings for capital investments rose 4% in March from a year earlier, the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA) said on Thursday.

The companies signed up for $9.3 billion in new loans, leases and lines of credit last month, up from $8.9 billion a year earlier. However, borrowings in March rose 26% from the previous month.

"The equipment finance industry appears poised to take advantage of an economic tailwind that is manifesting itself in an improving labor market, a continued low interest-rate environment, a strong corporate earnings season, and high business confidence that is creating demand for investment in commercial equipment," said ELFA Chief Executive Officer Ralph Petta.

"ELFA member organizations also report improving portfolio quality, which is reflective of their customers' ability to meet their payment obligations as the pandemic's grip on many businesses loosens."

Washington-based ELFA, which reports economic activity for the nearly $1-trillion equipment finance sector, said credit approvals rose to 77% in March, from 75.8% in February.

ELFA's leasing and finance index measures the volume of commercial equipment financed in the United States.

The index is based on a survey of 25 members, including Bank of America Corp, CIT Group Inc and the financing affiliates or units of Caterpillar Inc, Dell Technologies Inc, Siemens AG, Canon Inc and Volvo AB.

The Equipment Leasing and Finance Foundation, ELFA's non-profit affiliate, reported monthly confidence index of 76.1 in April, an increase from the March reading of 67.7.

A reading of above 50 indicates a positive business outlook.

Reporting by Shreyasee Raj in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel

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