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China output, investment reinforce view economy has steadied

A worker welds at a machinery manufacturing factory in Huaibei, Anhui province August 20, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

By Kevin Yao

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's factory output grew at its fastest pace in 17 months and investment and consumption beat market forecasts, increasing confidence among investors that the world's second-largest economy has halted a slide and is building some momentum.

Following on from data this week showing robust exports and benign inflation, Tuesday's figures add to the case the economy has bottomed out after slowing in nine of the past 10 quarters.

The recovery path is set to be bumpy, especially as the U.S. Federal Reserve could start tapering its stimulus as early as next week, although analysts say China is better positioned than other emerging economies to cope with any resulting capital outflows.

"The better-than-expected figures showed the recovering momentum of China's economy is stronger than market expectations," Li Huiyong, an economist at Shenyin & Wanguo Securities in Shanghai.

The data underpinned broad market optimism, with the CSI300 Index of top Shanghai and Shenzhen listings extending gains to 0.7 percent from 0.4 percent before the data's release.

Factory output jumped 10.4 percent in August from a year earlier, beating expectations of 9.9 percent and accelerating from 9.7 percent in July, to post its biggest increase since March 2012, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

Fixed-asset investment, a key driver of growth, grew 20.3 percent in the first eight months of 2013 from a year earlier, quickening slightly from 20.1 percent in January-July.

But growth in property investment slowed to 19.3 percent in the first eight months from a 20.5 percent pace in January-July, and the rise in revenues from property sales eased to 34.4 percent from 37.8 percent.

Retail sales, a key gauge of domestic consumption, rose 13.4 percent in August from a year earlier, up slightly from 13.2 percent in July to be fastest expansion since last December, when President Xi Jinping launched a frugality drive.

"Overall, the development in the Chinese economy is, just as we expected, moving towards a cyclical and temporary recovery. We are likely to see growth stabilising in the remaining two quarters and overall growth at 7.5 percent," said Amy Zhuang, senior analyst with Nordea Markets in Copenhagen.

"After that growth may gradually decline as Beijing is actively pursuing a lower growth in order to push through structural reforms."

(Reporting by China Economcs Team; Editing by John Mair)