European shares started their first trading day of 2019 deep in negative territory on Wednesday as fears of a global growth slowdown, trade wars, rising U.S. interest rates and political instability rolled over into the new year.
Investors were awaiting a new set of data to shed more light on the health of the European economy as sentiment has already been hit by disappointing Chinese data.
At 0828 GMT, euro zone stocks <.STOXXE> were retreating 1.9 percent with steep falls in Paris <.FCHI>, down 2.5 percent, Madrid <.IBEX>, down 2.2 percent and Milan <.FTMIB> down 2 percent.
In terms of sectors, the laggards of 2018 were taking the biggest hits. Miners, autos, banks, and oil sectors were all sliding 2.2 to 3.5 percent as crude prices fell and investors dumped the cyclical parts of the market most exposed to a slowing global economy.
Oil services firm TechnipFMC saw the worst performance, down 5.6 percent.
Among other big losers, medical equipment maker Gerresheimer was down 4.8 percent after JP Morgan cut its rating on the stock to "underweight", according to traders.