[BEIJING] Activity in China's services industry quickened in December, an official survey showed on Friday.
The services sector has been the lone bright spot for the economy in the last few years, helping to offset a faltering manufacturing sector.
The official non-manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 54.4, from November's 53.6, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
A reading above 50 points indicates an expansion in activity on a monthly basis, while one below that points to a contraction.
The services sector has accounted for the bigger part of China's economic output for at least two years, with its share rising to 48.2 per cent in 2014, compared with the 42.6 per cent contribution from manufacturing and construction.
Still, China's economic growth is expected to cool from 7.3 per cent in 2014 to 6.9 per cent in 2015, the central bank said in a recent work paper, its slowest pace in a quarter of a century. It said growth could ease further to 6.8 per cent in 2016, though some China watchers believe real growth levels are already much weaker than official data suggest.
China is set to release fourth quarter and full-year GDP data on Jan 19.