U.S. consumer confidence fell in February to near a level seen at the beginning of the recession, as high unemployment and some stock market weakness sapped January's optimism, a research group said on Tuesday.

Investor's Business Daily and TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence said their IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index fell to 46.8 in February from 48.8 in January.

Readings above 50 indicate optimism, while those below 50 point to pessimism.

The index is now 1.7 points below its 12-month average of 48.5 and just 2.4 points above its reading of 44.4 in December 2007, when the recession began.

Persistent high unemployment and a wobbly stock market dampened January's optimism, said Raghavan Mayur, president of TIPP, a unit of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, IBD's polling partner.

Optimism tends to decline in February, and over the past eight years, optimism weakened in February six times, rose once and maintained its January level once, Mayur said in a statement.

The survey's six-month economic outlook component fell 6 percent to 48.7, and is up 16.6 points from December 2007.

The IBD/TIPP surveys more than 900 adults generally in the first week of the month. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

(Reporting by Chris Reese; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)