Q4 Economic Outlook Forecasts Growth in Equipment and Software Investments in 2018

After growth in 2017, investment in equipment and software should remain strong in 2018 and is projected to expand 7.9 percent (up from 7.0 percent in the Q3 Economic Outlook published in July) according to the Q4 update to the 2018 Equipment Leasing & Finance U.S. Economic Outlook released by the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation. Strong economic momentum should drive investment activity through the rest of the year, though certain industries appear to be peaking and may begin to weaken in the months ahead. Overall, the economy is expected to grow 2.9 percent in 2018, unchanged from the most recent forecast and well above the 2.2 percent growth rate last year. The Foundation’s report, which is focused on the $1 trillion equipment leasing and finance industry, highlights trends in equipment investment and places them in the context of the broader U.S. economic climate.

Jeffry D. Elliott, foundation chairman and senior managing director of Huntington Equipment Finance, states, “The equipment finance industry appears to be on sound footing with solid growth prospects in the months ahead. Overall, investment in most equipment verticals should remain healthy through the remainder of 2018 and into early 2019.”

Highlights from the study:

  • Capital spending has been solid to date this year. Business confidence levels are elevated, supported by strong fundamentals in the U.S. economy. This should translate into steady expansion in equipment and software investment through the rest of the year with overall investment up 7.9 percent in 2018.
  • Credit market conditions remain healthy for Q4, with little change in supply or demand relative to Q3. Despite the late stage of the credit cycle and rising interest rates, financial stress decreased in the second quarter. The Federal Reserve is likely to raise its benchmark interest rate once more in 2018 for a total of four rate hikes over the year to curb inflationary pressures.
  • Overall, 2018 is likely to be a solid year for the U.S. economy and may approach 2015’s 2.9 percent expansion as the best year for growth since the recession. The U.S. economy has continued to post strong gains throughout 2018, with positive contributions to GDP from most major sectors of the economy.

The Foundation-Keybridge U.S. Equipment & Software Investment Momentum Monitor, which is included in the report, tracks 12 equipment and software investment verticals. In addition, the “Momentum Monitor Sector Matrix” provides data visualization of current values of each of the 12 verticals based on recent momentum and historical strength. Overall, investment in most equipment verticals should remain solid in 2018. Over the next three to six months:

  • Agriculture machinery investment growth is likely to slow.
  • Construction machinery investment growth should hold steady.
  • Materials handling equipment investment growth should remain modest.
  • All other industrial equipment investment growth is likely to continue to decelerate.
  • Medical equipment investment growth will likely remain stable.
  • Mining and oilfield machinery investment growth may strengthen.
  • Aircraft investment growth should remain solid.
  • Ships and boats investment growth is expected to accelerate.
  • Railroad equipment investment growth should improve.
  • Trucks investment growth should remain solid.
  • Computers investment growth should remain solid.
  • Software investment growth may soften.

The Foundation produces the Equipment Leasing & Finance U.S. Economic Outlook report in partnership with economic and public policy consulting firm Keybridge Research. The annual economic forecast provides a three- to six-month outlook for industry investment with data, including a summary of investment trends in key equipment markets, credit market conditions, the U.S. macroeconomic outlook, and key economic indicators. The Q4 report is the final update to the 2018 Annual Outlook before the publication of the 2019 Annual Outlook in December.

Download the full report online. All Foundation studies are available for download from its online library.

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