Corporations reported a 3.9 percent rise in after-tax profits for the third quarter, down from an 8.9 percent surge in the previous quarter but substantially above the preliminary estimate last month, the government reports.

The Commerce Department said profits rose $6.4 billion to a seasonally adjusted annual level of $169.1 billion for the third quarter. That's much better than the slight 0.2 percent rise reported a month ago, but the department noted that almost all of the improvement came from profits earned by overseas subsidiaries of U.S. companies. The second quarter rise in profits had been the best in nearly five years.Corporate profits before taxes rose 2.6 percent in the third quarter to $313.9 billion, following a 6.9 percent increase in the previous three-month period.

Dividend payments to stockholders rose 2.5 percent to $105.7 billion in the third quarter, up from a 1.8 percent gain in the second quarter.

Corporate cash flows, a measure intended to show the funds corporations have available for investment, rose 0.8 percent in the third quarter following a 1.4 percent rise in the April-June period.