China's economic growth was 6.7 per cent in the fourth quarter last year, according to figures released yesterday, placing growth at the higher end of analysts' expectations. The data was released by the China Securities Journal, the only state-sanctioned newspaper to report it. The National Bureau of Statistics normally announces economic figures but did not yesterday. The Government has released preliminary figures that showed gross domestic product growth reached 7.3 per cent last year. Economists have calculated that the economy therefore grew a relatively slow 6.3 to 6.5 per cent in the fourth quarter. Dong Tao, chief economist at Credit Suisse First Boston, said: 'We were looking for 6.3 per cent to 6.5 per cent, so if it is legitimate, then it is better than what we thought. But two or three months ago, people were looking for something near 7 per cent.' Last year, China's GDP growth dropped steadily as exports to key markets such as the United States and Japan fell on weak demand. The mainland reported 8.1 per cent GDP growth in the first quarter, 7.7 per cent growth in the second quarter and 7 per cent growth in the third quarter. Despite the downward trend, China has managed to grow more than any other country as the world battles the economic downturn. 'What is supporting the growth momentum is robust private consumption,' Mr Tao said. Meanwhile, Zhang Hanyua, head of the Investment Research Institute of the State Development Planning Commission, said GDP could reach 8 per cent this year, higher than the Government's target of 7 per cent. The China Daily reported Mr Zhang saying foreign trade was expected to grow 15 per cent this year, despite the negative international situation. A survey by the China Economic Monitoring Centre in six cities found 60 per cent of the 2,400 families questioned believed economic growth would be stronger this year, the China Daily added.