Data showed profits rising to 711.18 billion yuan ($109.6 billion) in March, up 92.3% from a year ago, when the economy was hit hard by the Covid crisis. The pace of growth slowed from the first two months of the year, however. Profits soared 179% in January-February, compared with the same period in 2020.

According to Zhu Hong, an official at the NBS, strong profits in the raw materials manufacturing and processing industries – particularly chemicals, metals, and petroleum – helped drive overall industrial profit growth as demand picked up.

For the January-March period, industrial firms’ profits soared 137% from the same period a year earlier to 1.825 trillion yuan ($281 billion).

China’s gross domestic product also posted a record growth of 18.3% in the first quarter, driven by stronger demand at home and abroad. The country’s exports rose sharply in March, and imports posted their highest surge in four years last month, with factory activity and factory gate prices rising at faster-than-expected rates.

Meanwhile, industrial output grew more slowly than expected last month, with liabilities at industrial firms up 9.0% year-on-year at the end of March, versus 9.4% growth as of the end of February.