The looming spectre of recession grips global stock markets as inflation and conflict in Europe take their toll on consumers.
Stock markets have slumped after Wall Street suffered one of its worst batterings in two years as traders recoiled at the prospect of recession.
Downcast earnings reports from retailers have exacerbated worries about consumer resilience in the face of decades-high inflation.
"A red wall of worry has built up across financial markets with investors increasingly nervous that economies are set to career into recession," said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown on Thursday.
Europe's major stock markets were down more than two percent approaching the half-way stage after leading Asian indices closed down by a similar amount.
READ MORE: Janet Yellen: US recession not expected but Europe is 'vulnerable'
Among the biggest losers were tech giants after Chinese giant Tencent reported lacklustre profits, fuelling wider concerns over China's economic outlook.
Tencent shares plunged more than eight percent in early trading before paring losses slightly, a day after it posted its slowest revenue gain since going public in 2004.
Among other tech titans, Alibaba dropped more than six percent.
"Sentiment... is highly negative as traders and investors are largely concerned about an economic downturn and soaring inflation," said AvaTrade analyst Naeem Aslam.
On Wall Street Wednesday, all three major US indices dived, with the Dow sinking more than 1,150 points or 3.6 percent.
The Nasdaq plunged 4.7 percent by the close.
READ MORE: World Bank to provide additional $12B to tackle global food crisis
North American-focused big-box retailer Target plunged about 25 percent in value after group earnings missed expectations despite higher sales.
The company reported higher operating costs in results that echoed those of bigger rival Walmart.
The retailers said consumers were avoiding discretionary purchases as prices for food, gasoline and other household staples jump.
"The big falls in shares... highlights the damage inflation is inflicting," said Fawad Razaqzada at City Index.
"Consumers are getting squeezed... and if they now start to cut back on spending then retailers could suffer even further."
In some of his most hawkish remarks to date, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell this week said the US central bank would raise interest rates until there is "clear and convincing" evidence that inflation is in retreat.
But higher borrowing costs increases debt, heaping further pressure on consumers and businesses.
The United States is facing the fastest inflation in four decades, as is Britain, causing the Bank of England to also raise interest rates.
READ MORE: Putin: Western sanctions causing global economic crisis