As U.S. stocks have risen in value since November, various measures of retail and consumer activity during the period are lagging.

The S&P 500 index, which tracks a broad field of U.S. stocks, rallied more than 59 points in November, over 16 points in December, and more than 28 points in the first week of 2010.

However unemployment across the United States in January remained relatively high at around 10 percent. Also, credit conditions are still tight, according to new financial services figures released today. Consumers are not even as optimistic about their finances as experts believe. The Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment was up slightly from December to 72.8 in January, missing analysts' estimates of 74, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE:JPM), the largest U.S. bank by market capitalization, beat analysts' estimates when it reported today that fourth quarter earnings were $3.3 billion. However, some of its consumer related financial services businesses are showing declines. Credit card sales were down 6% QoQ (quarter-on-quarter), mortgage loan origination fell 6% QoQ, and auto loan originations slipped 14% QoQ.

Disappointing retail sales and unemployment claims were reported Thursday as well.  Claims climbed to 444,000 last week from 433,000 the previous week, according to a Labor department report. Also, retail sales in December missed analysts' expectations, falling 0.3%, according the Commerce department. Sales from furniture and home furnishing stores were down 11.1% from last year and sales at gas stations are down 24.5% from last year. 

Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser said on January 12 that he saw rising evidence of the sustainability of the economic recovery.  However, he does not expect strong consumer spending and projects unemployment to remain elevated for some time.