HONG KONG - World stocks fell sharply on Friday amid concerns over the global economy and as investors look ahead to the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy meeting next week.
Britain's FTSE 100 lost 1.2 percent to 6,157 while France's CAC 40 fell 1.1 percent to 4,358. Germany's DAX slumped 2 percent to 9,888.
U.S. stocks were poised to open lower as Dow futures slid 0.5 percent and broader S&P 500 futures fell 0.6 percent.
Investors are keenly awaiting the outcome of a scheduled two-day Fed meeting that wraps up on Wednesday. Doubts are growing that U.S. policymakers will raise interest rates soon after Fed chief Janet Yellen said Monday that many lingering uncertainties mean it's unclear when the Fed should resume raising rates.
Investors are avoiding risk as polls suggest growing support for Britain to quit the European Union ahead of a June 23 referendum on the issue. The uncertainty over how a so-called "Brexit" might affect financial markets is driving investors into safer assets, analysts said.
"The market has a number of potential risk events before it," said Ric Spooner, chief analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. "Chief among these is the Brexit vote on 23 June. Now only two weeks away, the Brexit vote is likely to impact trader behavior in the broader risk markets like equities and commodities."
The latest figures for Chinese retail sales, industrial production and fixed asset investment are expected this weekend. The numbers will provide further clues on the direction of the protracted slowdown of the world's second-biggest economy. Export data released earlier this week showed further contraction as global and domestic demand remained weak, underscoring the difficulties officials in Beijing face in trying to reverse the slump.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.4 percent to end at 16,601.36 while South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.3 percent to 2,017.63. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.2 percent to 21,042.64 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slid 0.9 percent to 5,312.60. Benchmarks in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand also fell. Markets were closed in mainland China and Taiwan for a holiday.
U.S. crude shed 67 cents to $49.89 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, fell 58 cents to $51.37 a barrel in London.
The dollar fell to 106.82 yen from 107.05 yen in late trading Thursday. The euro dropped to $1.1303 from $1.1310.