Energy firms led a broad sell-off in world stock markets Thursday following a plunge in oil prices.
The euro meanwhile rose against the dollar as dealers looked ahead to the European Central Bank's latest decisions on eurozone interest rates and stimulus.
Stock markets retreated as a closely-watched report showed a shock surge in US oil inventories that rekindled worries about a global supply glut that has hammered the crude market since mid-2014.
The Energy Department on Wednesday revealed a whopping eight-million barrel increase in supplies over the past week -- four times more than expected -- owing to higher domestic production and increased stockpiling.
The news battered the oil market, with both main contracts slumping to lows not seen since the end of last year and sending New York prices sliding below $50 a barrel.
Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Oanda trading group, said the inventories report was the "straw that broke the camel’s back", with concerns already abound that Russia was not pulling its weight on much-vaunted production cuts agreed between OPEC and non-OPEC countries in November.
Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader, said there is growing unease that too much of the burden on reducing output is being shouldered by OPEC nations, particularly kingpin Saudi Arabia.
In Thursday trading, shares in oil giant Royal Dutch Shell slid 3.0 percent and rival BP lost 2.0 percent on the London stock market. The FTSE 100 index was weighed down also by falling mining shares.
Asian energy firms had already taken a hit, with Japan's Inpex shedding 1.2 percent, Hong Kong-listed PetroChina diving 2.2 percent and CNOOC losing 1.8 percent.
Woodside Petroleum fell 1.1 percent in Sydney and later in European activity, French energy group dropped 2.2 percent.
"The data catalysed a new wave of glut concerns as the higher oil price might spur North American's production, especially of shale oil, which may ultimately counterbalance OPEC's effort to support oil prices," said CMC Markets analyst Margaret Yang.
The oil figures overshadowed a surprise jump in private jobs creation in the United States, which beefed up expectations for Friday's key government jobs report and reinforced expectations the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates next week.
Later Thursday, the European Central Bank is widely expected at its policy meeting to maintain massive support for the eurozone economy, despite growing evidence the health of the bloc is improving.
Inflation is close to the bank's target, lending support to critics' calls for the ECB to raise historic low interest rates and wind down its tens of billions of euros per month in government and corporate bond purchases.
- Key figures around 1130 GMT -
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.7 percent at 7,280.48 points
Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.3 percent at 11,933.51
Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.3 percent at 4,943.67
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,386.25
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 percent at 19,318.58 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 1.2 percent at 23,501.56 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 3,216.75 (close)
New York - Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 20,855.73 (close)
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0563 from $1.0539
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2153 from $1.2168
Dollar/yen: UP at 114.61 yen from 114.41 yen
Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN 89 cents at $52.22 per barrel
Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 92 cents at $49.36
Margaret Yang Yan & AFP