Stocks in the United States plunged again on Thursday - driving Standard & Poor's 500 index to its lowest level since 1997.
More than a decade of stock market gains have now been erased.
The S&P 500 is now more than 52% below its October 2007 record high. According to the Stock Trader's Almanac, the current decline is exceeded only by a drop of 83% between 1930 - 1932.
The price of oil went below $50 a barrel on Thursday, taking energy shares with it amid dismal US economic data.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 444.99 points, or 5.56%, to 7,552.29.
Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost 54.14 points, or 6.71%, to 752.44. The Nasdaq Composite Index slid 70.30 points, or 5.07%, to 1,316.12.
The number of workers on the unemployment rolls are at their highest in 25 years , while a regional manufacturing gauge slumped.
Further uncertainty over the prospects for a bailout for automakers added to the gloom.
Volume was heavy on the New York Stock Exchange: about 2.23 billion shares changed hands - above last year's estimated daily average of 1.90 billion.
About 3.15 billion shares were traded on the Nasdaq - well above last year's daily average of 2.17 billion.
European stocks were down 3.8% on Thursday.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares closed at 781.06 points - its lowest close since April 2003. European shares have shed more than 48% to date this year.
Around Europe: Germany's CAC dropped 3.1% and France's CAC-40 lost 3.5%. In Britain, the FTSE 100 lost 3.3%.
In Asia, the Nikkei index in Japan ended 6.8% lower and the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong fell more than 4%.
In Australia, the S&P/ASX200 index was 4.19% lower.
The New Zealand market ended Thursday down 2.3% at 2644 on turnover of $84 million.