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Investments in equipment and software are expected to grow 5.5 percent in 2014, according to a fourth-quarter update to the "2014 Equipment Leasing & Finance U.S. Economic Outlook" released last week by the Equipment Leasing and Finance Foundation.The foundation revised its forecast to 5.5 percent from 2.6 percent in its third-quarter update. Equipment and software investment is expected to steadily grow over the next six months across most verticals due to a gradually strengthening economy and continued replacement demand. The foundation also predicts that railroad equipment investments likely will accelerate over the next three to six months, while investments in trucks will exhibit modest growth through the year. In other equipment markets, materials handling equipment investments likely will experience stronger growth over the next three to six months, construction machinery investments will experience moderate growth over the next two quarters and agriculture machinery investments likely will contract through the rest of 2014, according to the update.Steadily improving economic conditions point to increased investment and financing activity through the end of the year, said William Sutton, the foundation's president, in a press release. He also serves as president and chief executive officer of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association."Industry confidence has remained consistently positive and capital spending is up," said Sutton. "Although challenges remain — from geopolitical risks to global growth concerns — we remain optimistic regarding the outlook for the equipment finance sector through the end of 2014."