* FDI of $116 bln in 2011 at record * But December inflows down 12.7 pct on year ago * FDI from US and Europe both fell in 2011 * China's outbound investments rose 1.8 pct in 2011 By Zhou Xin and Nick Edwards BEIJING, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Foreign direct investment in China rose 9.7 percent in 2011 to a record $116 billion, though December's inflow of $12.24 billion was down 12.7 percent versus year-ago levels, the Commerce Ministry said on Wednesday. It was the second consecutive month that China's non-financial foreign direct investment (FDI) fell versus year-ago levels, signalling that once unabated capital flow into the world's second-biggest economy is stuttering. FDI inflows from the United States sank 26.1 percent in 2011 to $3.0 billion, while those from the European Union fell a more modest 3.65 percent to $6.3 billion, the Commerce Ministry said. China's non-financial outbound direct investments, meanwhile, rose 1.8 percent in 2011 to $60.1 billion, taking the outstanding value of China's outbound investments to $322 billion by the end of the year. In 2011 alone, China invested in 1,392 overseas projects in 132 countries. "China's investments in Europe and Africa were particularly strong in 2011," Shen Danyang, the spokesman of Ministry of Commerce, told a regular news conference. That outward investment strength comes as inward investments cooled sharply in the closing months of 2011 -- a distinct difference to the situation in 2010. FDI inflow in December 2010 grew 15.6 percent at an annual rate to $14 billion, a record for any single month, and helped push overall flows for 2010 up 17 percent to $105.7 billion. The deceleration from that high level might well have been expected in December 2011, but it came after China reported a 9.8 percent year-on-year decline in November. That was the first fall in 28 months. Shen said general global economic weakness had restrained both inward and outward investments in 2011, but added that China should report "relatively fast" growth in both areas in 2012. The Commerce Ministry said earlier this month it aimed to attract an average of $120 billion FDI in each of the next four years. It also unveiled new rules to encourage foreign investment in strategic emerging industries, particularly those that bring new technology and know-how to China. Investment inflows, which surged in the years after China joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001, have recovered strongly after being hit hard by the global economic slowdown in 2008/09.