For years, investors and far-flung corporations have focused most of their attention on the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China for new growth opportunities as if they were the only new players that mattered.

That quartet, which is commonly referred to by the handy grouping acronym BRIC, is still growing and important but a new report released today by State Street Global Advisors makes it clear that countries like Turkey and Columbia are among the next crop of emerging markets that savvy investors have in their crosshairs.

And it's not an overnight phenomenon.

State Street's Active Emerging Markets investment team has been tracking a group of smaller emerging companies that includes Columbia, Turkey, Chile, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Hungary, Israel, Peru, Poland, Thailand and the Philippines since January 1997 and discovered that this less-heralded subset has outperformed its BRIC counterparts by more than 39% in total growth over this 13-plus-year span.

"Investors, while maintaining a core exposure to BRIC countries, should not close their eyes to other growth areas in the emerging world," Chris Laine, portfolio manager for active emerging market equities at State Street Global Advisors, said in the report. "Many of the smaller emerging and frontier economies have quietly been making investor-friendly reforms and deserve the attention of international investors."

"Many of these economies offer value, growth and solid profitability," he added.

International markets have long been the purvey of astute institutional and individual investors looking to either hedge against volatility in the U.S, Asia and Europe or to capitalize on growth industries popping up in markets where labor is cheaper, regulation is minimal and governments are bending over backwards to attract foreign investments.

But now it seems just about every investor is taking a gander emerging markets for their various mutual fund and exchange-traded fund plays.

Earlier this week, a Franklin Templeton report found that 62% of U.S. and global investors are planning to invest in international markets in the next decade even though only 34% are currently investing outside their own countries right now.

But State Street analysts and researchers conclude that investors have less to fear from these lesser-known commodities in South America and Eastern Europe than some of the countries with which they're more familiar.

The report analyzed that the sovereign credit default swap (CDS) market and discovered there's more risk to investing in some developed countries than this growing basket of emerging countries. In fact, of the 20 countries with the largest sovereign CDS spreads, six are identified as developed and only four countries are classified as "emerging."

"On a short-term basis, emerging market equities do have a higher degree of volatility, but if we think about longer-term systemic risks, emerging markets appear to us to have more favorable characteristics," Laine said. "Lower government debt burdens and healthier consumers suggest that emerging markets will continue to attract capital.

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