Feb 23 (Reuters) - U.S. companies' borrowing to spend on capital investment rose about 10 percent in January from a year earlier, the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA) said.
Companies signed up for $6.9 billion in new loans, leases and lines of credit last month, up from $6.2 billion a year earlier. However, borrowing nearly halved from $12.8 billion in December.
"Despite a spike in delinquencies, which bears a watchful eye for signs of deterioration in credit markets in the coming months, the new year gets off to a strong start for the equipment finance industry," ELFA Chief Executive Ralph Petta said in a statement.
"Business owners continue to expand their operations and acquire productive assets, even as interest rates edge up ever so slightly and the Fed is poised to cool an overheated economy," Petta said, referring to the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Washington-based ELFA, a trade association that reports economic activity for the $1 trillion equipment finance sector, said credit approvals totaled 76.9 percent in January, down from 77.6 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, BB&T Corp, CIT Group Inc and the financing affiliates or units 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 for February was 73.2, down from its all-time high of 75.3 in January.
A reading of above 50 indicates a positive outlook. (Reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)