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[BEIJING] China's economy grew 6.8 per cent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, slightly more than expected, supported by higher government spending and record bank lending that has stoked concerns about an explosive rise in debt.
The world's second-largest economy expanded 6.7 per cent in 2016, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Friday, roughly in the middle of the government's 6.5-7 per cent growth target but still the slowest pace in 26 years.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected China would report 6.7 per cent growth for both the fourth quarter and the full year. The economy grew 6.7 per cent in the third quarter.
While China is on more solid economic footing than this time last year, it faces increasing uncertainties in 2017, with a housing frenzy showing signs of cooling and the impact of previous stimulus measures expected to fade.
China's sluggish exports also could come under fresh pressure if US President-elect Donald Trump takes a more protectionist stance on trade, while its yuan currency is widely expected to depreciate further, weighing on its foreign exchange reserves.
Gross domestic product (GDP) in October-December rose 1.7 per cent quarter-on-quarter from the previous three months, compared with growth of 1.8 per cent in July-September, the bureau said.
Analysts had expected quarterly growth would ease marginally to 1.7 per cent.