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Photograph: Photo by Michael Elleray, used under CC BY

The continued decline in the price of crude oil and concern that global growth is faltering contributed Friday to a dramatic decline in stock markets around the world.

US equities sank to their lowest levels since August, following market slides in Europe and Asia.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.39 per cent, ending the day 391 points down after falling as much as 537 points. European stocks hit levels not seen in months and the Shanghai Composite Index closed down 3.55 per cent at 2,900.97. ChiNext Index, which tracks China's growth enterprises, also dropped 2.86 per cent.

Germany's benchmark DAX ended the week down 2.54 per cent at 9,545.27 points, the deepest since early October. Since the beginning of 2016 the index has lost more than 11 per cent.

The leading index of the Euro zone, the Euro Stoxx 50, lost 2.37 per cent to 2,952.48 points. Leading indexes in Paris and London also went down.

The market turmoil was attributed at least in part to oil dipping to 29.28 a barrel before closing at a 12-year low. The crash in oil prices forced equity markets to their knees, wrote analyst Jasper Lawler from broker CMC Markets on Friday.

But there was also bad economic news from the United States. Figures on retail sales and manufacturing in December showed the world’s largest economy ended 2015 on a weak note.

Chinese shares plunged despite better-than-expected foreign trade figures released on Thursday. 

Foreign direct investment in China rose by 6.4 per cent year on year to 126.27 billion dollars in 2015, according to the Ministry of Commerce. 

The Chinese economy grew 6.9 per cent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2015, below the 7-per-cent target that the government has set for the whole of 2015.

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