A lift in Chinese growth was offset by weaker expansion in other emerging markets such as Brazil, India and Russia in March. The HSBC Emerging Markets Index (EMI) rose slightly to 52.6, from 52.4 in February.
Frederic Neumann, Co-Head of Asian Economic Research at HSBC, said that "harsher global headwinds" had impacted emerging economies. He added that the recovery in China supported those economies particularly sensitive to changes in demand from the Mainland, such as Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and Vietnam, but the impact further afield on Brazil, India and Russia was less powerful.
He said: "Manufacturing across emerging markets showed signs of stabilisation in March after cooling the previous month. In part, the lift reflects stronger activity in China, where the Lunar New Year holidays had dampened output previously.
"None of this is to suggest that the emerging markets boom is about to run out of steam. But the latest Emerging Markets Index highlights, yet again, the growing importance of China amid the ongoing drag from more developed economies in the West."
In the manufacturing sector, a mild acceleration was led by China, South Korea and Taiwan, while expansion in the services sector eased slightly to a seven-month low. Across the emerging markets, new business growth stabilised at a moderate pace. Employment continued to rise and inflationary pressures eased.
Recent EMI readings have been below the long-term average. However, the average reading for the first quarter of 2013, at 52.9, was higher than the third and fourth quarters of 2012. Any figure above 50.0 signals expansion, while below 50.0 indicates contraction. HSBC's EMI is a monthly indicator that is derived from the HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index surveys of 16 key emerging economies.
The HSBC Emerging Markets Future Output Index, a new series tracking the expectations of businesses for activity 12 months ahead, eased slightly in March but remained the second highest in ten months. The China Composite Future Output Index for March was at a record high.