The University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters Index of consumer sentiment, a widely followed metric that measures how consumers perceive both the economy and their own finances, rose to 75.0 in January, according to the organizations behind the monthly survey.

That number marks a notable rise from December, when the index was reported at 69.9, and narrowly beats economists' expectations. Economists interviewed by Bloomberg had estimated the results would come out between 72.5 and 76.0; the median prediction was 74.0.

Economists have recently noted a rebound in U.S. manufacturing, a decrease in the amount of income consumers are hoarding as savings and a rise in several leading indicators--all pointing to a tepid recovery. Earlier Friday, the government released preliminary data on GDP growth during the fourth-quarter, pegging that figure at a modest 2.8 percent.

The Michigan consumer sentiment index, as it is popularly known, is only the latest leading indicator showing that economic growth in the U.S. has somehow decoupled from the situation in Europe, where the economy is contracting.

But the present levels of the index also clearly demonstrate how much the powerful American economy has weakened since the recession hit nearly five years ago. Prior to that contraction, the index normally fluctuated in the upper 80s.