European shares fell today in their first trading session of the quarter, as dismal economic data underpinned the ongoing damage from the coronavirus pandemic and fanned fears of a deep global recession. 

The pan-European STOXX 600 index ended with its worst quarter in 18 years yesterday as lockdown measures to contain the virus outbreak upended business activity, raising the threat of corporate defaults and mass layoffs. 

Figures today showed factory activity contracting across most of Asia and Europe in March as the outbreak paralysed supply chains, with sharp falls in export power-houses Japan and South Korea overshadowing a modest improvement in China. 

London's FTSE 100 index slumped 3.8% by its close as a number of UK banks joined European peers in suspending dividend payments to shore up liquidity.

The Frankfurt DAX sank 3.9% and the Paris CAC 40 was down 4.3% by the end of trading.

Dublin's ISEQ index was also lower, falling by 3.2% by the close of business.

Earlier, Tokyo's Nikkei index tumbled 4.5% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index lost 2.2% in line with an Asia-wide sell-off fuelled by concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, Wall Street stocks fell sharply in early afternoon trade on weak jobs data and a downcast warning from President Donald Trump about the rising US death toll from the coronavirus.