BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s December factory activity unexpectedly accelerated despite disruptions from COVID outbreaks and as the economy loses momentum in the fourth quarter, according to an official survey released on Friday.

The official manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI) rose to 50.3 in December from 50.1 in November, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed.

Analysts had expected it to fall slightly to the 50-point mark, which separates growth from contraction.

The world’s second-largest economy, which staged an impressive rebound from last year’s pandemic slump, has lost momentum as it grapples with a slowing manufacturing sector, debt problems in the property market and small-scale COVID-19 outbreaks.

Analysts expect a further slowdown in fourth-quarter growth.

(Reporting by Ryan Woo and Gabriel Crossley; editing by Richard Pullin)