European shares have slid to their lowest since October 2014 this afternoon following losses in US and Asian stock markets as the relentless slump in oil prices continued to drag on markets.

Shares in London and Paris were down over 3.5% in afternoon trade (4.30pm Irish time), while the market in Frankfurt was down nearly 3%. The Dublin market was down more than 3%.

US stocks opened sharply lower on Wall Street today as crude oil prices tumbled close to 12 year lows. Both the Dow Jones and Nasdaq had dropped more than 2.3% by 4.30pm Irish time. 

US crude fell to its lowest level since 2003 after the world's energy watchdog warned the market could "drown in oversupply". US futures shed 3.6% to $27.43 while Brent crude lost 3.1% to $27.87 a barrel. 

Copper also slipped. Basic resources and energy sector were the sectors that fell most steeply in Europe, down 4.8% and 3.8% respectively. 

Oil shares in Europe are down 13% already this year, also at their lowest levels since 2003.

Asian stocks surrendered all of yesterday's rare gains as the Hong Kong stock market's benchmark index posted its single biggest daily fall since early August, while Japan's Nikkei index closed down 3.7%. 

Chinese markets fared only marginally better amid mounting talk that more stimulus may be on the way, possibly before the Lunar New Year holidays in early February. 

Meanwhile, the rouble fell close to a historic low today, as the dollar climbed past the psychological threshold of 80 roubles for the first time since the shock plunge of the Russian currency in December 2014. 

The rouble also fell against the euro, to 87.67 rubles per euro, also its lowest level since December 2014, as Asian and European markets suffered those steep falls.