The three major US stock indices posted heavy falls as China raised tariffs for US food imports.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed 1.9 per cent — more than 450 points — lower, at 23,644, reclaiming some ground in late trade after earlier falling more than 700 points.
The broader S&P 500 index lost 2.2 per cent.
Food companies were hit hard following the news of China’s tariffs, including shares in processed food maker Tyson Foods, which fell 6.2 per cent.
“What’s happening is we’re entering a risk-off mode,” said Guidestone Capital Management president David Spika.
“I think the market [is] starting to realise that you can lose money in stocks and so while last year we were constantly buying the dip, this year we’re selling the rebound.”
Tech rout continues as Trump tweet targets Amazon
Technology stocks continued to come under pressure, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq falling more than the other indices.
Amazon shares lost 5 per cent after US President Donald Trump continued his attack on the company via Twitter.
In a series of tweets, Mr Trump slammed Amazon for damaging the US postal service, writing “it is reported that the US Post Office will lose $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon … This Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!”
Risk aversion takes hold of markets
“The overriding theme in financial markets overnight was a rise in risk aversion,” said St George economists.
ASX SPI 200 futures were closed over the Easter break.
Energy stocks could be set to come under pressure this session, following heavy falls in oil prices overnight.
In economic news, the Reserve Bank will hold its April board meeting today, with interest rates expected to remain on hold.
“We would expect that while today’s RBA post-Board statement will show no urgency in lifting rates, they nevertheless are watching local and offshore events closely,” wrote NAB economist David de Garis.
“The local and overseas growth story continues, while trade-tariff news remains unsettling.”