Concerns that the world's powerhouse economies of China and the US are struggling and that Europe's debt crisis is not yet over have driven most global stocks down.
European indexes were particularly hit as traders reacted to fairly dismal American jobs figures after the long Easter weekend.
On Friday, the US announced that the economy added 120,000 jobs in March, half the previous month's gain and the fewest in five months. That sent shares tumbling in the US, with European indexes catching up.
Hopes that the US economy is recovering and will lift other economies with it have powered substantial gains in the stock market this year. But now that recovery looks increasingly uncertain, and China has also revised its growth projections.
Last week, disappointing Spanish bond auctions raised the possibility that the country might have to seek a bailout, and the yields, or interest rates, on the bonds of other European countries began to rise.
Rising yields have been the hallmark of the crisis, eventually pushing three countries - Greece, Ireland and Portugal - to seek rescue loans when they could no longer afford to borrow money from markets to fund their economies. Amid all those bleak signs, European shares have plunged.
France's CAC-40 dropped 1% to 3,287, while the DAX in Germany fell 0.8% to 6,723. The FTSE index lost 0.8% to 5,675. Meanwhile, the euro was down 0.3% to 1.3079 dollars (82p).
Wall Street, which was open on Monday, seemed finally ready to brush off last week's figures and looked set to open slightly higher. Dow futures rose 0.2% to 12,879, while S&P futures were up the same rate to 1,378.
Concerns about the health of an economic rebound have also been heightened by high energy prices, which many analysts worry are making any recovery harder. Oil prices have retreated off their recent highs, though, and benchmark oil for May delivery shed 32 cents to 102.15 dollars (£64.17).
Earlier in Asia, most markets closed down. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.1% to 9,538.02 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 1.1% to 20,362.22. South Korea's Kospi shed 0.1% to 1,994.41. China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, meanwhile, rose 0.9% to 2,305.86. Elsewhere in Asia, the benchmark indexes in Australia, Thailand and India were down. Those of Taiwan, New Zealand, and Singapore were up.