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BEIJING (Reuters) - Activity in China's manufacturing sector unexpectedly shrank for a third straight month in October, an official survey showed on Sunday, fuelling fears that the economy may be cooling further in the fourth quarter despite a raft of stimulus measures.
The official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) was at 49.8 in October, the same pace as in previous month and lagging market expectations of 50.0.
A reading over 50 points suggests an expansion in activity while one below that level points to an contraction on a monthly basis.
Data last week showed the world's second-largest economy grew 6.9 percent between July and September from a year earlier, dipping below 7 percent for the first time since the global financial crisis, though some market watchers believe current growth is much weaker than government figures suggest.
To shore up growth, the government has cut interest rates six times since November and lowered the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves four times this year. The latest cut in interest rates and banks' reserve requirement came in late October.
Beijing has also ramped up infrastructure spending and eased restrictions on home purchases to revive the flagging property market.
Reporting By Xiaoyi Shao and Nick Heath; Editing by Kim Coghill