Investors pulled billions of dollars out of Asian and European stock markets on Friday after a dramatic fall on Wall Street fueled by fears of a double-dip recession for the global economy.
Tokyo's key Nikkei index shed 3.72 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng plunged 4.29 percent and Australia's benchmark index slumped four percent in response to Wall Street's 4.31-percent dive on Thursday, its worst fall since the 2008 crash.
Europe was staring into an equally bleak hole on Friday morning as London’s FTSE 100 tumbled 3.5 percent, Germany’s DAX nosedived 3.8 percent and France’s CAC-40 was 2.5 percent weaker in morning trade.
"Asian markets are following on from what happened in the U.S. overnight, which was effectively a rout of investor confidence in equity markets. The only thing they’re interested in currently is cash," Toby Lawson, head of equities for Asia at Newedge, told The Financial Times.
Governments across the region sought to reassure investors. Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan said "there is just a world of difference between the situation in Australia and the situation in Europe and the United States," according to The Australian newspaper.
Investors weren't convinced. The Australian share market lost as much as $55 billion in its worst day in two years, the GlobalPost reported earlier.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told economic officials in Southeast Asia's biggest economy there was "no need to panic", but the local exchange's benchmark stock index dived 4.86 percent.
Analysts said there was little hope of a respite in the coming days and even weeks.
"In this environment, no one wants to catch a falling knife," Ryan Larson, head of U.S. equity trading at RBC Global Asset Management, told The Wall Street Journal after Thursday's bloodbath in New York.
Eighty-two-year-old American retiree Robert Slocomb said: "I'm just sorry to see my retirement going to hell."