The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell almost 2% in early trading, driven lower by oil and gas stocks which plummeted more than 4.5%.
Oil markets have come into sharp focus after dramatic moves in prices Monday as the coronavirus dents demand and concerns over production storage grow.
West Texas Intermediate crude futures for May delivery plunged below zero for the first time in history on Monday. The contract in question is set to expire on Tuesday, fueling Monday’s wipeout.
But in early Asian trading hours on Tuesday, the price of the May WTI contract returned to positive territory, trading at $1.35 a barrel. The June U.S. crude contract gained 3.23% to $21.09 a barrel. International benchmark Brent crude futures, on the other hand, dipped 0.9% to $25.34 a barrel.
BP and Repsol shares were down by about 5% in early deals.
And in other stock news, shares in SwissRe tumbled more than 8% in early trade and led the losses across Europe.
UK employment data
Data released Tuesday morning showed that employment figures in the U.K. rose more slowly in March than in February — an early sign of the coronavirus’ impact on the country’s economy. Growth in the number of people employed fell to 0.8% in last month, from 1.1% in February.
In Asia, stocks fell as uncertainty weighed over the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. CNN reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed U.S. official with direct knowledge, that Washington is “monitoring intelligence” that Kim is in “grave danger after a surgery.”
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 2.28%, while South Korea’s Kospi dropped 1.73%. The South Korean won also weakened significantly against the greenback as it traded at 1,233.68 per dollar.