The FTSE (-1.4%) was hit hard, as was the DAX (-1.7%), whilst the CAC (-0.7%) didn’t fare so badly.
The sharp move lower in Germany was caused by investors selling DAX futures, with volume a quarter of the daily average traded in one 30-minute block.
At one stage the index fell as much as 250 points in a matter of minutes, trading down more than 4% before recovering.
Stateside, the Dow shed 171 points (-1.5%) to settle at 11150, whilst the S&P500 (-1.6%) and Nasdaq (-2%) also suffered heavy falls.
A rise in US jobless claims provided the catalyst for last night’s move lower, with traders also remaining cautious ahead of Bernanke’s speech.
Not even a $5 billion investment in Bank of America by Warren Buffet, which is a huge endorsement for the company and the economy, was enough to prop up the market.
The euro softened against the greenback for a second session after European regulators extended bans on short-selling in equity markets.
The yen fell against all 16 of its most-traded counterparts amid speculation Bernanke will disappoint investors betting on more stimulus fuelled demand for the safety of US Treasuries.
Crude oil gained modestly overnight, adding 0.2% as Hurricane Irene threatened to shut refineries on the US east coast.
Gold bounced back amid slumping equity markets, adding 0.3% to settle at US$1763 an ounce.
In company news, FXJ reported a FY net loss of $390.9 million after writing down the value of its mastheads, customer relationships and goodwill and restructuring costs.
There is no major data due out for today’s local session.