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US Capital-Equipment Loans, Leases Up 10.7% In May - Survey

--Equipment leasing and finance activity increased 10.7% in May from year earlier --Loans and leases past due were unchanged from April --Approval rate for loans and leases was 78% in May By Bob Tita A survey of credit providers showed that loans and leases for business equipment in the U.S. increased 10.7% in May from a year earlier, but capital spending volume was nearly unchanged from April. Respondents to the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association's monthly survey said they financed $6.2 billion of new equipment last month, up from $5.6 billion in the year-earlier period. May's volume was up 1.6% from April, suggesting that spending is moderating in the face of weakening U.S. economic growth, lower prices for commodities and the sovereign debt crisis in Europe. Nevertheless, since the beginning of 2012, spending is up 15.9% from a year ago at $29.2 billion. Spending on equipment has been expanding faster than the broader U.S. economy as companies replace worn-out or obsolete equipment after deferring such activity during the 2008 recession and the sluggish recovery. "Although overall spending has steadily increased since the financial crisis, pockets of the market are still tenuous, said Maureen Carr, managing director of the corporate asset finance group for CapitalSource. "Some customers are cancelling or postponing purchases amidst softer commodity prices or weaker demand from abroad." Credit portfolio quality measured by the survey improved slightly from a year earlier and was mostly stable on a month-to-month basis. Loans and leases past due by more than 30 days fell to 2.7% of survey respondents' net receivables in May, from 2.9% a year earlier and unchanged from April. Charge-offs amounted to 0.5% of respondents' net receivables last month, down from 0.8% a year earlier and down from 0.6% in April. The approval rate for loans and leases was 78.3% in May, compared with 76.4% a year earlier and 76.4% in April. Survey respondents continued to cite construction and trucking as the industry sectors within their loan portfolios that are underperforming. A monthly confidence index of the U.S. capital-equipment finance industry fell to 48.5 in June from 59.2 in May. The 25 respondents to the association's survey included banks Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB), as well as finance units for manufacturers Caterpillar Inc. (CAT), Deere & Co. (DE), Volvo Group and Dell Inc. (DELL). Write to Bob Tita at robert.tita@dowjones.com

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