A worker makes aluminium utensils inside a factory in New Delhi on July 1, 2013. Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee

Emerging markets are just barely staying above water, with business activity neither growing nor shrinking, according to the latest HSBC Holdings PLC (LON:HSBA) Emerging Markets index, a monthly indicator derived from business surveys.

The index ticked up to 50.8 for September from 50.7 in August. A score of 50 indicates no business activity growth.

The quarterly average for this fall, at 50.3, was the lowest since early 2009, during the financial crisis, HSBC said Wednesday.

India fared the worst, showing declines in business activity for the third straight quarter, and the fastest decline since March 2009, thanks to a lackluster service sector.

Manufacturing and service sectors in emerging markets shed jobs over the past two months, though this has now mostly stabilized, said HSBC. Indian companies cut their collective workforce for the first time since February 2012.

China’s output remained modest, with sluggish manufacturers slowing down overall growth. The world’s second-largest economy is struggling to transition away from an export-based economy, and economic slowdown there this year could seriously harm the global economy.

“Economic conditions in emerging markets are showing marginal improvement, although the data remains disappointing overall,” said HSBC emerging markets researcher Pablo Goldberg, in a statement.

A recovery in the U.S. and Europe should help anchor exports from emerging markets, even as currency depreciation piles more pressure on emerging economies.

The analysis included the four BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China, as well as Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern nations.