China's industrial firms saw profits rise 29.6% year-on-year during the first three quarters of 2006, the South China Morning Post reported. The National Bureau of Statistics said profits accelerated this year to hit US$165 billion. The growth rate is faster than the 29.1% recorded in the first eight months of the year and the 28% rate in the first half. Profits grew 23% last year. Some economists said the growth was driven by the big monopolies that could cash in on state protection but others said the new profitability trend is a sign of the economy becoming healthier. "The stronger-than-expected corporate earnings growth has reduced the risk of a sharp correction investment growth," Goldman Sachs chief China economist Liang Hong told the newspaper.