TSC Ratings provides exclusive stock, ETF and mutual fund ratings and commentary based on award-winning, proprietary tools. Its "safety first" approach to investing aims to reduce risk while seeking solid outperformance on a total return basis.U.S. apparel and accessories companies have risen at twice the pace of the S&P 500 index's 30% increase since a stock market rally started March 9. Investors thought a bottoming of consumer confidence meant VF Corp. ( VFC), Polo Ralph Lauren ( RL) and Coach ( COH) were ripe for stock picking, given that the clothing companies' shares had been crushed. Coach, a maker of luxury handbags, has more than doubled since March 9. Polo and VF Corp., the maker of Lee jeans and the The North Face winter gear, also surged. But then VF Corp. cut its 2009 outlook Tuesday, and its stock tumbled. All three companies will face stingy customers for the rest of the year. The Conference Board's April consumer confidence index jumped to the highest level since November, a report showed Tuesday. The gauge climbed to 39.2 from 26.9 in March and 25.3 in February, indicating an accelerating pattern. However, the economy is still deteriorating, and much of the renewed confidence is a result of the stock market rally. The economy shrank at a worse-than-expected 6.1% rate in the first quarter, the government said Wednesday. Survey respondents for the consumer confidence report harbor misconceptions about the economy. For example, those anticipating fewer jobs in the months ahead declined to 33.6% in April from 41.6% in March, and respondents expecting more jobs increased to 13.9% from 7.3%. Those are troubling signs because economists forecast continued job losses into 2010. Consumers have unrealistic expectations about the pace of the economic recovery. Their optimism led to an increase in so-called discretionary purchases during the first quarter, rising 2.2% after falling 4.3% in the fourth quarter.