March 22 (Reuters) - U.S. companies' borrowing to spend on capital investment fell in February, the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA) said.
Companies signed up for $5.9 billion in new loans, leases and lines of credit last month, down 3 percent from a year earlier. Their borrowing fell 5 percent from January.
"This slow start belies the business-friendly environment that many business and economic commentators point to in characterizing the new administration in Washington," ELFA Chief Executive Ralph Petta said in a statement.
Washington-based ELFA, a trade association that reports economic activity for the $1 trillion equipment finance sector, said credit approvals totaled 74.8 percent in February, down from 75.4 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, BB&T Corp, CIT Group Inc and the financing affiliates or subsidiaries of Caterpillar Inc, Deere & Co, Verizon Communications Inc, Siemens AG, Canon Inc and Volvo AB.
The Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation, ELFA's non-profit affiliate, said its confidence index fell to 71.1 in March from 72.2 in February.
A reading of above 50 indicates a positive outlook. (Reporting by Radhika Rukmangadhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)