Construction equipment prices are slowly recovering from a beating they took at the end of last year. Last December, the producer price index for construction equipment fell 0.3% to its lowest level since July 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since then, prices have averaged monthly increases of 0.1%, finally pulling ahead of last November's price level in April. The modest four-month price rally accounts for virtually all of the annual increase, with the index now standing just 0.3% above April 2001's level.

Portable air compressors are being priced 1.3% lower than a year ago, while prices for tractor shovel loaders have fallen 0.4%. Despite a strong highway market, paving equipment is going for about the same price as a year ago. A 0.6% price increase for mixers, pavers and spreaders at the beginning of the year simply recaptured last summer's price cuts.

Producers of crawler tractors announced a 0.9% price increase in April after a similar price hike in January held. Prices for crawler tractors now are 2.1% above last year's level, the largest annual increase tracked by BLS for construction equipment prices.