Most of the Asian shares markets were mixed as Italy heads for another round of elections that investors worry could become a referendum on whether to stay in the euro bloc.
Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index dropped 1.5 per cent to 22,018.52. South Korea's Kospi dropped 2.0 per cent to 2,407.95. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong slipped 1.5 per cent to 30,034.07.
The Shanghai Composite index fell 1.6 per cent to 3,072.76. Australia's S&P ASX 200 fell 0.6 per cent to 5,979.00. Shares fell in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, reports AP.
Prices for US government bonds surged as investors shifted money from stocks into lower-risk investments. Bond yields dropped. The S&P 500 index fell 1.2 per cent to 2,689.86.
The Dow Jones industrial average turned negative for the year, losing 1.6 per cent to 24,361.45. The Russell 2000 index fell far less than the Dow, giving up 0.2 per cent to 1,623.65.
The Nasdaq composite fell 0.5 per cent to 7,396.59. In Europe, the German DAX lost 1.5 per cent and Britain's FTSE 100 and the French CAC 40 both sank 1.3 per cent.
US government bond prices jumped as investors moved money into lower-risk assets. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.78 per cent from 2.93 per cent.
New jitters about the stability of the euro sent the currency's value against the dollar to its lowest level in almost a year. The dollar fell to 108.53 yen from 109.77 yen. The euro sank to $1.1533 from $1.1537.
US crude oil fell 25 cents to $66.50 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It dropped 1.7 per cent to $66.73 a barrel in New York.
Oil prices have slumped in the last week following reports that OPEC countries and Russia could start pumping more oil soon.
Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 38 cents to $75.11 a barrel in London.
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