Off-road equipment manufacturers universally experienced higher steel prices, reduced steel availability and longer delivery times in 2004, according to an Association of Equipment Manufacturers survey. As a result, many survey respondents have delayed hiring new staff, scaled back business expansion plans and shifted some production to non-U.S. sources, the survey showed.

The median steel price increase reported in the survey was 60 percent, with many reporting increases of 100 percent of more. About 45 percent anticipated that steep prices would continue to rise through the first quarter of 2005, with about 5 percent expecting price drops.

About 85 percent of respondents said they absorbed some or all of the price increases instead of passing them on to customers.

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