Firms signed up for $11.8 billion in new loans, leases and lines of credit last month, compared with $12.1 billion a year earlier. Borrowings, however, rose 49% from November.
"The outlook for the industry, and indeed overall economy, is somewhat cloudy, with unabated inflation, the Fed poised to increase interest rates, equities markets in a recent tailspin," ELFA Chief Executive Officer Ralph Petta said in a statement, adding that the Omicron coronavirus variant remains a concern in the United States.
ELFA, which reports economic activity for the nearly $1-trillion equipment finance sector, said credit approvals totaled 78.6%, down from 77.2% in November.
The Washington-based body's leasing and finance index measures the volume of commercial equipment financed in the United States.
The index is based on a survey of 25 members, including Bank of America Corp, CIT Group Inc and financing affiliates or units of Caterpillar Inc, Dell Technologies Inc, Siemens AG, Canon Inc and Volvo AB.
The Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation, ELFA's non-profit affiliate, said its confidence index for January was at 63.9%, unchanged from December. A reading above 50 indicates a positive business outlook.
(Reporting by Nathan Gomes in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)