2021 Economic Outlook Q3 Update Forecasts 13.3 Percent Growth in Equipment and Software Investment, 6.1 Percent GDP Growth

As businesses across the country continue to invest during the post-pandemic recovery, annual equipment and software investment growth of 13.3 percent is forecast for 2021. Annual U.S. GDP growth for 2021 is forecast at 6.1 percent, according to the Q3 update to the 2021 Equipment Leasing & Finance U.S. Economic Outlook released today by the Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation.

Scott Thacker, Foundation Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Ivory Consulting Corporation, said, “The Q3 update indicates that America is now opening for business quickly. The evidence illustrated in the Outlook points to a booming economy for the second half of the year as long as the pandemic remains in check, and despite several potential headwinds which must be monitored carefully. In the shorter term, strong growth for both the economy and the equipment finance industry are expected to be realized this summer.”  

Highlights from the Q3 update to the 2021 Outlook include:

  • Equipment and software investment benefited from an 18 percent surge in Q1, and is well above its pre-pandemic level.
  • The U.S. economy expanded at a robust 6.4 percent (revised) annualized rate in Q1 2021, an acceleration from Q4 2020. Q1 GDP was just 0.9 percent below its level at the end of 2019, indicating that the economy exceeded its pre-pandemic level in Q2.
  • The U.S. manufacturing sector is still facing record levels of demand, even as the pandemic hamstrings key manufacturing centers around the world. However, industrial output in the U.S. has been constrained by acute shortages of key inputs and elevated prices.
  • Main Street has emerged from the pandemic having suffered less damage than many expected, in part due to historic federal relief efforts. Consumers are spending again, capacity limits and distancing requirements have largely been lifted, and the outlook is as bright as it has been since the pandemic began.
  • Federal Reserve officials have, for the most part, reached consensus agreement that inflation pressures will prove to be transitory. However, given the speed and magnitude of the economic rebound, the Fed has hedged a bit and signaled that rate hikes could begin in 2023.
  • While the outlook is mostly positive, notable headwinds remain, including two — supply chain issues and services exports — that stem from the rest of the world’s continued struggles with COVID-19 and comparatively slower vaccination push. Additionally, the risk of sustained high inflation and the expiration of federal support measures are key factors to watch this summer and fall.

The Foundation-Keybridge U.S. Equipment & Software Investment Momentum Monitor, which is released in conjunction with the Economic Outlook, tracks 12 equipment and software investment verticals. In addition, the Momentum Monitor Sector Matrix provides a customized data visualization of current values of each of the 12 verticals based on recent momentum and historical strength. Nine verticals are showing signs of accelerating investment after the pandemic-fueled collapse, and three other verticals are showing signs of peaking, although investment growth should remain healthy in the near term. Over the next three to six months, year over year:

  • Agriculture machinery investment growth is likely to decelerate.
  • Construction machinery investment growth should continue to strengthen.
  • Materials handling equipment investment growth will remain robust.
  • All other industrial equipment investment growth should continue to improve.  
  • Medical equipment investment growth may have peaked, but should remain strong.
  • Mining and oilfield machinery investment growth should accelerate, though Y/Y growth rates may stay in negative territory.
  • Aircraft investment growth will continue to improve, but may also remain in negative territory.
  • Ships and boats investment growth should improve.
  • Railroad equipment investment growth may rebound.
  • Trucks investment growth could strengthen.
  • Computers investment growth should remain strong.
  • Software investment growth should remain robust and may even accelerate.

The full report of the Momentum Monitor is now available at https://www.leasefoundation.org/industry-resources/momentum-monitor/.

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 the U.S. macroeconomic outlook, credit market conditions, and key economic indicators. The Q3 report is the second update to the 2021 Economic Outlook and will be followed by one more quarterly update before the publication of the 2022 Economic Outlook in December.

Download the full report at https://www.leasefoundation.org/industry-resources/u-s-economic-outlook/. All Foundation studies are available for free download from the Foundation’s online library at http://store.leasefoundation.org/.

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