surge@ (Adds details, economic and policy context)
* Aug profits grow 24 percent y/y, highest since Jan-Feb period
* Statistics bureau says faster growth due to higher commodity prices
BEIJING, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Annual profits at China's industrial companies rose 24 percent in August, accelerating from the previous month in an indication economic growth remains in good heart even as signs emerge of fading momentum following a robust first half.
The upbeat earnings is another sweetener for authorities as Beijing focuses on stripping out financial risks from years of debt-fueled growth and keeping the economy on a steady footing ahead of a crucial party gathering next month
Profits in August jumped 24 percent to 672 billion yuan ($101.21 billion), the biggest percentage jump since the January-Feb period, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Wednesday. Annual profit growth was 16.5 percent in July.
For the first eight months this year, the firms notched up profits of 4.92 trillion yuan, an increase of 21.6 percent from the same period last year, picking up slightly from the 21.2 percent annual growth in the January-July period.
The robust industrial earnings growth in August was driven by higher prices, particularly in sectors such as oil, steel and electronics, He Ping of the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement accompanying the data.
He estimated that surging prices contributed nearly one third of the new profits in August.
That was backed by data showing China's producer price inflation accelerated more than expected to a four-month high in August, fueled by strong gains in raw materials prices and pointing to strong, sustained growth for both factory profits and the economy.
Industrial sector earnings have enjoyed a spurt from a year-long, government-led construction boom, which has fueled demand and prices for building materials.
China's push to cut excess capacity in heavy industries and its war on pollution has also appeared to intensify a short-term supply shortage and higher prices.
The earnings data by sector, however, highlights the uneven nature of profit growth.
Mining industry profits soared 5.9 times from a year earlier while manufacturing profits rose 18.6 percent. Sectors such as electricity, gas and water production however saw their profits plunge 22.6 percent.
Profits at China's state-owned industrial firms were up 46.3 percent at 1.08 trillion yuan in January-August, compared with a 44.2 percent rise in the first seven months. But earnings for all SOEs for August alone were only up 4.3 percent on-year, Reuters calculations show.
A raft of August data back analysts' expectations for the economy to slow over coming months, as efforts by policymakers to clamp down on debt risks and defuse property market bubble have raised financing costs and generally tightened monetary conditions.
Still, after a robust first-half growth is expected to easily meet the government's 6.5 percent target for this year in a welcome sign for Beijing ahead of a Communist Party Congress (CPC), which will see a key leadership reshuffle and the setting of policy priorities for the next five years.
S&P Global Ratings downgraded China's long-term sovereign credit rating on last Thursday, citing increasing risks from its rapid build-up debt.
Chinese industrial firms' liabilities at the end of August were 6.4 percent higher than at the same point last year at 60.9 trillion yuan.
The data encompasses large companies with annual revenue of more than 20 million yuan from their main operations. ($1 = 6.6394 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk and Yawen Chen; Additional Reporting by Min Zhang; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)