China's economy grew at an annual rate of 9.6% of the third quarter, slightly ahead of expectations.

The economy's vigorous growth comes as Chinese policy makers grow increasingly concerned about rising prices. Inflation accelerated to an annual rate of 3.6% in September, the highest in almost two years, Bloomberg News said.

China has raised interest rates and forced state-owned banks to reduce lending as it tries to cool inflation and prevent a possible credit bubble.

The strong economic growth may bolster arguments for a stronger yuan. China has faced international pressure to allow its currency to appreciate, a measure which would make its exports more expensive.

"Foreign critics would look at today's data and argue for stronger yuan gains," Ben Simpfendorfer, a Hong Kong-based economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Plc., told Bloomberg News. Chinese officials "may worry about tightening too aggressively on both interest rates and the currency."

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg forecast growth of 9.5%.

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