Construction equipment dealers are predicting improving business conditions in 2012, with about 40 percent of respondents expecting sales to increase 3 to 5 percent this year, according to a survey conducted by GE Capital Dealer Finance. About 25 percent of respondents expect sales to jump 6 to 8 percent, while 77 percent said the best time to increase inventory is within the first half of 2012.

At the same time, 57 percent said demand for new construction is “slack,” both residential and commercial. Slightly more than half of the respondents said improvement in the U.S. economy will have the greatest impact on the construction industry, with 23 percent saying access to credit for end users is the primary factor and 20 percent said reauthorization of the federal highway spending bill.

Thirty-seven percent of the respondents said earthmoving equipment will be the category of construction equipment most in demand this year, with 23 percent citing specialty items such as pavers, compactors, drills, crushers and grinders.