Investors' nerves are frayed after the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1,032.89 points, or 4.1%, in NY overnight.
On Wall Street, futures for the Dow and the Standard & Poor's 500 were down 0.1 per cent and up 0.2 per cent, respectively, though the actual market open does not always follow the futures closely in times of volatility.
That means that like the Dow and some European markets, it's in correction territory - a decline of 10% or more from a recent high.
The benchmark S&P 500 was still set for a second day of declines, following sharp swings in recent sessions including its biggest drop in more than six years that pulled equities away from record highs.
Elsewhere in Asia on Friday, Hong Kong's Hang Seng pulled back 3.8%, while South Korea's Kospi index traded down 1.9% and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 1.2%.
Financial analysts regard corrections as a normal market event but say the latest plunge might have been triggered by a combination of events that rattled investors. Those include worries about a potential rise in US inflation or interest rates and whether budget disputes in Washington might lead to another government shutdown.
JPMorgan Asset Management's chief market strategist Tai Hui said investors were focusing on USA inflation data due next week for clues on what to do next.
The yuan weakened against the dollar in thin volume, and the Chinese currency was on track for its first weekly loss in nine weeks.
The US stock market began its current wobble last Friday after a strong wages and jobs figures suggested inflation could increase and the Federal Reserve Bank might raise interest rates too quickly.
Rises in the fear index and stock sell-offs tend to fuel each other: Investors look at the fear gauge to determine the direction of the market, and then sell more. Facebook and Boeing have both fallen sharply. The Nasdaq rose 97 points, or 1.4%, to 6,874. The MSCI China stock index, which tracks shares of some of China's biggest companies, is still up almost 50 percent since the beginning of past year even after the recent stock slump.
"If 10-year, risk-free rates keep climbing toward 5 percent, stocks with earnings multiples of 30 or more will become increasingly expensive, so they're getting dumped by institutional investors", said Gu, Shanghai-based chief investment officer at Ucom Investment Co.
The Shanghai Composite index closed down 1.43 per cent at 3,262.05 points and its blue-chip CSI300 index fell 0.95 per cent to 4,012.05.
"When we have a bear market again, and we are going to have a bear market again, it will be the worst in our lifetime", he told Bloomberg.
On Thursday, the Bank of England seemed to offer support for that view.
In the past, China's government has sometimes moved to prop up falling stock markets, but a hedge fund manager said that was unlikely this time.
Around the region, MSCI's Asia ex-Japan stock index was firmer by 0.25 per cent. The euro gained 0.2% to $1.2275.
WELLINGTON: The S/NZX50 Index fell 0.2 per cent, to 8177.14.