The consumer, it seems, is alive and well. Citigroup (NYSE:C) reported strong first-quarter earnings today, giving more credence to the idea that the consumer does, indeed, have a pulse, and a healthy one at that.

Citigroup reported earnings of $5.27 billion, or $1.01 per share, up 29% from $4.1 billion, or $0.79 per share, in the same quarter last year. If you back out a one-time gain, Citigroup's earnings were $0.98 per share, easily beating the consensus estimate of $0.94 per share. Revenues came in at $21.5 billion, up 16% from the previous year.

It probably didn't take rocket science to figure out that a healthier consumer makes for healthier profits. Yesterday, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) also reported a nice uptick in earnings, up 11% from last year's levels.

The focus on the consumer is the interesting element when you consider the current economic climate. To put the issue into terms we can all understand and maybe even empathize with, people who are finding employment again and feeling more optimistic about their wallets are people who are paying off their credit card debt at a better clip than before.

On the flip side, those who are still struggling likely pay out ever-increasing late fees and overlimit fees. (Fools, of course, know the pitfalls of credit card debt -- but to err is human, and if yours is woefully too high, be sure to check out our Credit Center.)

Citigroup's credit card revenue rose 39%, and 43% in North America, including the company's acquisitions of the Home Depot (NYSE:HD) and Sears (NYSE:S) credit card businesses, both of which can be seen as beneficiaries of the trendy urge for home improvement.

Future growth plans include Citigroup's travels overseas -- the company is extending credit to countries with booming economic outlooks, like India and China. Exciting, but there remains some degree of risk in extending credit to economies like China's, where, by and large, people haven't yet learned the ropes of credit card debt.

Despite the strong first quarter, Citigroup shares were recently down 2.4% at $49.75. Earlier this week, investors bid the stock to a 52-week high of $52.88. Today's lower stock price isn't cause for alarm. Since current consumer trends were seen benefiting banks, the good news was likely already expected, explaining the sagging price today.

Strike up a conversation with other Fools on the Citigroup discussion board.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.