Confidence in the US equipment and leasing sector declined in February this year, against January, according to the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation, a non-profit industry research body.

As a result, the foundation reported that confidence in the equipment finance market in March is 46.0, a decrease from the February index of 58.7, which represents a 21.6% decline.

The foundation’s Monthly Confidence Index is designed to collect leadership data and report on a qualitative assessment of both the prevailing business conditions and expectations for the future as reported by key executives from the $900bn (£698bn; €822bn) equipment finance sector.

Valerie Hayes Jester, president of US lessor Brandywine Capital Associates, said, “The fundamentals of our economy continue to be strong. The current events in the worldwide markets and the impact of COVID-19 are impacting the very near term.

“Business demand for equipment finance is always based on the long-term perspectives of the commercial sectors, and I do not believe that pessimism is the predominant emotion in our customer base.

“2019 was a strong year and I have no reason to believe that demand will not continue to increase in the future.

“I did not agree with the Federal Reserve’s action of lowering rates, and I don’t believe that the decrease will have any impact on the equipment acquisition decisions of small businesses.”

The survey respondents are comprised of a wide cross-section of industry executives, including large-ticket, middle-market and small-ticket banks, independents and captive equipment finance companies, according to the foundation.

The confidence index uses the same pool of 50 organisation leaders to respond monthly to ensure the survey’s integrity. Since the same organisations provide the data from month to month, the results constitute a consistent barometer of the industry’s confidence, the body said.