Emerging markets have been hit hard this year, undermined by falling commodity prices and the prospect that rising U.S. interest rates could lure investment funds away from developing economies.

For years, the emerging markets with the highest profiles were the four nations dubbed the "BRICs": Brazil, Russia, India, and China. But these economies have taken a beating along with the other developing markets. In fact, last month Goldman Sachs, whose economist Jim O'Neill coined the term "BRICs" back in 2001, folded its fund for investing in the BRICs, which had struggled in recent years, into a larger emerging-markets fund.

Jan Randolph, director of sovereign risk for economic consultancy IHS, linked the emerging markets' woes to China's effort to switch its economy's focus from heavy industry and construction toward consumer goods and services.

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Susan Kelly

Susan Kelly is a business journalist who has written for Treasury & Risk, FierceCFO, Global Finance, Financial Week, Bridge News and The Bond Buyer.