Lingering worries about the impact on businesses of fresh coronavirus outbreaks helped trigger major profit-taking, overshadowing a batch of bright data in Europe.
“It’s a sour end to the trading week,” said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.
The Dow was down nearly 140 points approaching midday in New York, “adding to yesterday’s declines in morning action as friction between the US and China heated up overnight”, said Charles Schwab analysts.
European indices were up to two percent lower at the close.
Earlier in Asia, Shanghai and Hong Kong had already dived as relations between the world’s two superpowers took another bad turn when China ordered the closure of the US consulate in Chengdu in retaliation for America shuttering Beijing’s diplomatic mission in Houston this week.
The standoff is the latest in a string of issues — including Hong Kong, coronavirus and Huawei — that have plunged relations between the superpowers into crisis.
Stock markets were also still reeling from Thursday’s report of a rise in new jobless claims in the US which prompted doubts about any ongoing economic rebound there, traders reported.
Hopes that the data would spur US lawmakers to push on with fresh stimulus measures were undermined by the inability of Republicans and the White House to agree on a $1.0 trillion stimulus proposal.
Haven asset gold meanwhile jumped within spitting distance of $1,900 for the first time since late 2011, boosted by economic uncertainty, geopolitical tensions and Federal Reserve monetary easing that has weakened the dollar.
Oil attempted to stage a rebound having tanked Thursday, but then investors lost heart, overwhelmed by demand worries, and pushed crude lower again.
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 1.4 percent at 6,123.77 points (close)
Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 2.0 percent at 12,838.06 (close)
Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 1.5 percent at 4,956.43 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.8 percent at 3,310.89
New York – Dow: DOWN 0.5 percent at 26,519.43
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 2.2 percent at 24,705.33 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 3.9 percent at 3,196.77 (close)
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: Closed for a holiday
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1633 from $1.1596 at 2100 GMT
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 105.82 yen from 106.86 yen
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2786 from $1.2741
Euro/pound: DOWN at 90.97 pence from 91.02
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.2 percent at $40.97 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.4 percent at $43.15