In this Oct. 19, 2017, photo, heavy equipment moves ground to contour the land and prepare it for construction of a housing development in Jackson Township, outside Zelienople, Pa. On Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2018, the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo releases its January index of builder sentiment. (Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)

NEW YORK — U.S. builders are maintaining an optimistic view on sales as the economy improves and demand for homes remains strong.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Thursday remained at 72 this month. That’s still just 2 points shy of December’s reading, which marked an 18-year high for optimism among the nation’s builders.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders see sales conditions as good rather than poor. The index has remained above 60 since September 2016.

The current score of 72 was anticipated by analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Builders’ view of current sales conditions fell slightly, though the outlook for sales over the next six months rose two points to 80. A measure of buyer traffic held steady at 54.

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