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BEIJING (Reuters) - Profits earned by China's industrial companies rose 17.3 percent in December from a year earlier to 895.2 billion yuan ($143.91 billion), official data showed on Sunday, as a fourth-quarter recovery helped offset poorer corporate results in the third.
The data from the National Bureau of Statistics is the latest sign of a gathering rebound in activity in the world's second-largest economy. The December rise moderated from November's 22.8 percent increase but still marked the third-fastest growth last year.
Industrial profits totaled 5.56 trillion yuan in 2012, up 5.3 percent from a year earlier, China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on its website (www.stats.gov.cn), strengthening from a 3.0 percent increase in profits in the first 11 months of 2012 versus 2011.
China's economy grew at 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter, snapping a streak of seven consecutive quarters of slowdown.
Among 41 sectors surveyed by the bureau, 29 reported rising profits last year, led by a 69 percent jump for power generation firms, a nearly 21 percent rise for food processing firms and an 8 percent rise for electric equipment makers.
But some sectors are still struggling. Profits at steel firms tumbled 37 percent, while earnings for chemical companies fell 6 percent.
According to a Reuters poll, analysts predict China's annual economic growth would rebound a shade to 8.1 percent this year.
The HSBC flash purchasing managers' index (PMI), the earliest indicator of China's industrial activity, saw growth in China's giant factory sector accelerated to a two-year high in January.
($1 = 6.2205 Chinese yuan)
(Corrects December figure to third-fastest growth in 2012, from second fastest, in paragraph 2)
Reporting By Xiaoyi Shao and Lucy Hornby; Editing by Paul Tait