World stock markets plunged Thursday after U.S. Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke said the central bank may ease efforts to stimulate the country's improving economy.
News of a slowdown in China's manufacturing sector also contributed to a down day on Wall Street. The Down Jones Industrial Average fell 354 points -- 2.3 percent. The Standard & Poors-500 and Nasdaq were also down more than 2 percent.
Earlier Thursday, key Asian exchanges dropped by 2 percent or more, with markets in Paris, Frankfurt and, London all falling 3 percent or more.
Thursday's sell-off came after the U.S. Federal Reserve noted that the U.S. economic recovery is strong enough that it may ease off some of the moves it has made to stimulate the economy.
This includes its monthly bond purchases which have helped keep interest rates at record lows. Economists said many investors did not anticipate the Fed making such a move.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.