European markets have fallen sharply, hit by worries over a possible end to US economic stimulus measures, with mining stocks among the worst performers.

London's FTSE, along with the CAC in Paris and DAX in Frankfurt, all followed the lead of Japan's Nikkei's slump as investors and traders bet on a more protracted pull-back that could last over the next two months.

Japanese stocks plummeted overnight after a spike in government bond yields and unexpectedly weak Chinese manufacturing spooked investors sitting on top of months of massive gains in share prices.

The spike in long-term debt comes despite the Bank of Japan's aggressive efforts to keep interest rates down.

It followed overnight news that some officials of the US Federal Reserve are willing to scale back the Fed's stimulus effort as soon as June if the economy perks up. But despite today's sharp fall, the Nikkei is still up 39% so far this year.

Shares in New York were also in negative territory in afternoon trading, although they had not fallen to the extent of European and Asian markets.