Elsewhere in Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was 0.2 percent lower at 5,753 while Germany's DAX fell 0.8 percent to 6,749. The CAC-40 in France was 1.4 percent lower at 3,247.
The euro was also faring poorly in the risk-averse environment, trading 0.3 percent lower at $1.3074.
In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.5 percent at 13,052 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.4 percent to 1,386.
Earlier in Asia, sentiment was buoyed by indications that the Bank of Japan may do more to prop up the economy. Kyodo news agency reported that Deputy Governor Kiyohiko Nishimura's suggested the central bank might take additional stimulus steps to tackle deflation.That helped the Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo to soar 2.1 percent to 9,667.26 and the dollar to rise 0.4 percent to 81.33 yen. Other stock markets were up too, including Hong Kong's Hang Seng, which gained 1.1 percent to 20,780.73. Mainland Chinese shares rose on hopes for financial reforms aimed at regulating private lending and creating new institutions to serve private borrowers better, analysts said. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 2 percent to 2,380.85. The Shenzhen Composite Index gained 2.1 percent to 956.49. Oil markets were subdued, with the benchmark New York rate down 40 cents at $103.80 a barrel. ____ Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.