(Reuters) - Borrowing by U.S. companies to spend on capital investment rose 8 percent in April, the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA) said.
Companies signed up for $7.9 billion in new loans, leases and lines of credit last month, the Washington-based trade group said.
"Whether this robust activity was the result of slightly rising interest rates or reflective of sound fundamentals in the U.S. economy is yet to be determined." ELFA Chief Executive Ralph Petta said in a statement.
"What is known, however, is that the equipment finance business is off to a good start this year."
ELFA, a trade association that reports economic activity for the $1 trillion equipment finance sector, said credit approvals totaled 75.9 percent in April, up from 74.5 percent in March.
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.
The 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, the trade group's non-profit affiliate, said its confidence index fell to 63.2 in May from 65.8 in April.
A reading of above 50 indicates a positive outlook.
Reporting by Arunima Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva