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BEIJING, Dec 1 AFP

December 01 2012, 12:48AM

China's manufacturing activity grew in November for the second month in a row, official data shows, in a further sign of strength in the world's second-biggest economy after a marked slowdown.

China's purchasing managers' index (PMI) reached 50.6 last month, up from 50.2 in October and 49.8 in September, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Saturday.

A PMI reading above 50 indicates expansion while anything below points to contraction.

Separately, in a further sign of upward momentum, a closely watched private survey of Chinese manufacturing released by HSBC on November 22 showed growth for the first time in 13 months.

The British banking giant's preliminary purchasing managers' index reached 50.4 in November, up from a final 49.5 in October and 47.9 in September.

HSBC is set to release its final November PMI data on Monday.

China's economic growth hit a more than three-year low of 7.4 per cent in the third quarter from July to September, but recent data have fuelled optimism that the worst is past.

Exports, industrial production, retail sales and fixed asset investment - a key gauge of infrastructure spending - have all shown improvement.

The rosier outlook comes as China concluded an overhaul of the ruling Communist Party's top leadership last month.

Vice President Xi Jinping took charge of the party from President Hu Jintao, whom he is also expected to replace as president in March.

China cut interest rates twice this year and decreased the amount of funds banks must keep in reserve three times since December last year to encourage lending.

But it has avoided the type of major initiatives it took after the 2008/2009 global financial crisis, including a government-driven stimulus package worth about half a trillion dollars.