Companies may be investing in new expansion efforts, as a new report shows an increase in equipment financing and improvements in businesses' handling of existing debts. According to the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association, U.S. firms originated $7.1 billion in new loans, leases and lines of credit in September, up from $5.7 billion the month before. Meanwhile, only 2.3 percent of borrowers made late payments, down from 2.5 percent in August and the lowest figure in five years. "Our industry continues to show signs of strengthening despite a stubbornly stagnant U.S. and global economy," said ELFA president and CEO William Sutton, in a statement. "The spike in write-offs during the period shows that some lease and loan portfolios are under pressure." However, Sutton acknowledged, trends in new business volume growth and debt delinquency suggest the economy may begin to recover more vigorously in coming months. Equipment investment is often viewed by economists as a sign of business confidence, as it shows firms are either facing a resurgence of capital availability or improving market conditions.