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While traders said there was little fresh news driving markets on Wednesday, a build-up of worries this week - from Iranian nuclear tensions to US mortgage market worries to China's sudden stock market plunge - have all been sufficient to dramatically alter market sentiment.

 

'Fear index'

 

Wall Street's slide of more than 3 per cent on Tuesday, also catapulted a key measure of equity market volatility - known as the "fear index" and a closely-watched gauge of market risk aversion - more than 64 per cent higher.

 

Timeline: biggest market drops on the NYSE

October 19, 1987: The Dow Jones index drops 22.6 per cent, falling 508 points to 1,738.74 on "Black Monday", the biggest one-day drop in stock market history. Volume surges to an unprecedented 604 million shares, reaching 608 million shares the next day.

 

October 27 1997: The Asian financial crash spurs a global selloff; the Dow Jones index slumps 7.2 per cent, or 554 points, in its biggest single-day points drop. The NYSE's "circuit-breaker" is triggered for the first time to halt trading at 3:30pm.

 

April 14, 2000: The Dow drops 5.6 per cent, or 617 points - a new steepest point decline in a single day.

 

September 17, 2001: The Dow falls 6.9 per cent when trading resumes after a four-day halt following the 9/11 attacks. It slides 659.62 points, with a record volume of 2.37 billion shares traded.

 

February 27, 2007: The Dow index falls 3.3 per cent, or 416 points, spooked by a collapse in Chinese stocks and weak US manufacturing data. Investors pour money into less-risky bonds as the index experiences its worst points slide since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

 

Sources: Reuters data for market performance from 1987 onwards, The New York Stock Exchange Group Timeline

But even as stock markets continued to slide, there were some tentative signs of calmer trading elsewhere.

 

China's main Shanghai stock index, whose 9 per cent dive on Tuesday on regulatory concerns was cited by some as fuelling the global sell-off, bounced back almost 4 per cent.

 

Earlier, Asian stock indexes mirrored the US decline, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index down 2.1 per cent and the H-share index of Chinese shares listed in Hong Kong off 3 per cent well above earlier lows.

 

Japan's Nikkei average lost 2.9 per cent, Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 2.7 per cent and Seoul's KOSPI shed 2.6 per cent. Indian stocks trimmed early losses and the BSE index was down about 2 per cent.

 

Tatsutyuki Kawasaki at Kaneyama Securities, said: "The real question is whether New York will be able to rebound tonight. If it doesn't, investors are going to start looking for the reasons behind all this selling."