U.S. stock index futures pointed to a sharply lower open, with Dow futures sinking 300 points as European and Asian shares tumbled in the wake of renewed oil price weakness.
European stocks fell sharply shortly after market open, with the pan-European STOXX 600 down in the region of 3 percent after a weak session in Asia and fresh lows in oil.
Once again, miners bore the brunt of the selling, with the likes of Glencore, Anglo American and BHP Billiton all sliding over 4 percent. This follows gains as much as 11 percent in the previous session.
Asian stocks slid Wednesday, with major indexes declining by more than 1 percent each, as global sentiment remained low on concerns over economic growth, China and low oil prices.
Japanese stocks took the brunt of the selling, with the Nikkei falling close to 4 percent, entering bear market territory as it has fallen more than 20 percent from its peak in June last year.
Crude futures slumped again in early Asian trade on Wednesday, with U.S. oil falling to its lowest since September 2003 below $28 a barrel on worries over a global supply glut.
"Rising risk aversion and the declining oil price has had a marked impact on credit markets, where spreads in high yield issuers remain under pressure, led by energy related issuers, and has undermined mining and resources related shares," said head of multi-asset investment at BMO Global Asset Management, Paul Niven.
"Here, concerns over dividend sustainability are rising despite the recent upturn in non-oil commodity prices (which remain well below year-ago levels). We have seen a number of energy and mining related companies suspend dividend payments and serious questions are being asked on whether some of the highest yielders in the market will succumb to cuts in dividends," he added.
The fall in oil prices followed warnings from the International Energy Agency on Tuesday that oil markets could "drown in oversupply."
U.S. crude futures were trading down 87 cents at $27.59.a barrel early Wednesday — a new low since September 2003.
The contract settled down 96 cents, or 3.26 percent, in the previous session.
Brent futures dropped 69 cents to $28.08 a barrel, not far from the 12-year low hit on Monday.
Major earnings expected on Wednesday include results from Goldman Sachs before market open. F5 Networks and SLM are both set to report after the bell.
The data focus will likely be December's CPI inflation figures at 8:30 a.m. ET, which are expected to show that despite renewed oil price weakness the headline measure was flat on the month.
December's housing starts and building permits data are also due at 8:30 a.m.