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BEIJING (Reuters) - Activity in China's manufacturing sector grew more than expected in November, expanding at its strongest pace in more than two years, as the world's second-largest economy picks up momentum heading into what promises to be a tumultuous 2017.
The official Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) stood at 51.7 in November, accelerating from previous month's 51.2 and above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.
November's reading was above the prediction of a Reuters poll for 51.0 and matched a previous high in July 2014, when it also stood at 51.7. The last time China's PMI was higher was in April 2012 when it was 53.3.
After a rocky start to the year, China's manufacturing sector has picked up in recent months, buoyed by a government infrastructure building spree and a housing boom.
A jump in commodity prices also has boosted profits for firms selling building materials from cement to steel, though futures prices have plunged this week as major commodity exchanges took further steps to tame a spectacular months-long rally.
China's economy expanded at a steady 6.7 percent clip in the third quarter and looks set to hit Beijing's full-year target of 6.5 to 7 percent, fueled by stronger government spending, record bank lending and a red-hot property market that are adding to its growing pile of debt.
Factory output quickened in November, with the sub-index rising to 53.9 from 53.3.
Total new orders saw another month of solid improvement in November, rising to 53.2 from October's 52.8.
New export orders also increased and hit at least a 12-month high of 50.3, though they were still barely in expansion territory. Any pickup in external demand will be a welcome sign for China's massive factory sector.
Jobs were again lost, with the employment sub-index sitting at 49.2, compared to 48.8 in October, as the country pledged to cut excess capacity over a range of industries.
A sub-index for smaller firms fell, while performance for larger companies improved, a sign that the government's dependence on big state firms for growth this year has not changed.
A separate reading on the services sector also showed the pace of growth quickened in November from the previous month.
The official non-manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) stood at 54.7 in November, the strongest reading since June 2014.
That compared with the previous month's reading of 54.0 and remained well above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.
(Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk and Elias Glenn; Editing by Kim Coghill)
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)