Wall Street stocks have extended their losing streak, stung by worries about slowing US job growth, and nagging concerns about Europe's debt problems.
The losses were the worst this year for each of the three major US stock indexes.
The Dow Jones fell 213 points, or 1.7%, to close at 12,716. The Nasdaq Composite fell 56 points, or 1.8%, to finish at 2991.
The FTSE100 in London surrendered almost all its remaining 2012 gains.
It closed down 128 points, or 2.2%, at 5596. The DAX in Frankfurt shed 2.5% and the CAC-40 in Paris dropped 3.1%.
Shares in Italy fell 5% after reports the government is about to cut its growth forecast for this year.
Spanish bond yields also hit a new high for this year as concerns grow about Madrid's ability to repay its debts.
UBS global economics director Paul Donovan says significant risks are emerging again.
The Australian 200 Index fell 28 points, or 0.6%, to 4292 on Tuesday and
the NZX 50 rose 7 points to 3475.
At 8.20am on Wednesday, the New Zealand dollar was trading at 81.46 US cents, 79.45 Australian cents, 51.34 pence, 65.75 yen and 0.6222 euro. The Trade Weighted Index was at 72.85.
Brent crude oil is trading at $US122. 73 per barrel and gold was trading at $US1659.44 per ounce.