All four BRIC economies posted purchasing managers indices (PMI) in manufacturing and services of above 50, indicating an expansion in activity, according to the HSBC Emerging Markets Index (EMI).
The index, derived from PMIs in 16 key emerging economies, And previously compiled only on a quarterly basis, rose to 53.9 in January from 53.0 in December. That was the highest figure since Feb. 2012, HSBC said.
Manufacturing new orders rose at the fastest rate since April 2011, and across a broad range of economies data showed. Chinese manufacturing rose at the fastest pace in two years.
"While the strongest readings continue to come from the services sector, which has proved to be quite resilient to a more challenging external backdrop, the good news is the pick up in manufacturing activity," Pablo Goldberg, Global Head of Emerging Markets Research at HSBC said in a report.
The survey appears to calm doubts over the strength and sustainability of the Chinese uptick which some have dubbed a modest recovery [ID: nL4N0B304L].
China, where manufacturing output rose at the strongest rate since March 2011, is helping to lift the rest of Asia "slowly but surely", Goldberg said.
A pickup in export orders in China following December's fall boosted economic activity, as some firms noted improving demand from U.s. and European markets.
Export order PMIs were above 50, signaling expansion, in 11 of the 16 economies surveyed, the highest since April.
Russia and Turkey saw an expansion in activity though Central European countries, which are more exposed to the euro zone, continued to struggle. Polish and Czech manufacturing PMIs have been below the 50 mark for 9 and 6 months respectively.
HSBC also introduced a new indicator, the Composite Future Output Index, to track firms' expectations for activity in 12 months' time. This rose to a two-month high and also suggested a sharp pick-up in China over the coming year.
Manufacturers had the best growth expectations since last April when data collection started for the indicator.
"Our future expectation suggests that this recovery has legs," Goldberg said.
He pointed however to potential inflation risks. Cost pressures in emerging markets accelerated to their strongest in three months in January with the rate of input price inflation for manufacturing providers at a 15 month high.
The index is calculated using data produced by Markit.