At one point, the Frankfurt stock market plunged 3 percent, with Germany's two biggest banks taking large hits. In New York, the Dow's Santa rally continued for a second day, despite weaker consumer confidence.
German equities failed to benefit from Wall Street's bumper post-Christmas rally on Thursday, with the DAX index shedding a hefty 2.4 percent at the close to 10,381 — at one point plunging more than 3 percent.
German pharmaceutical, chemical and life sciences giant, Merck, was Frankfurt's worst performer, seeing a whopping 4.46 percent wiped off the value of its shares.
Germany's biggest lenders, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, along with auto giant Volkswagen, each saw 4 percent declines.
The selloff took Germany's benchmark stock index to a two-year low, a fall of 20 percent since the start of 2018.
Read more: Opinion: Will 2019 be the year of the crash?
Falling US stocks recover
US stock markets, meanwhile, won a last-minute reprieve after a trading day spent mostly in negative territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) closed up 1.1 percent to 23,138, erasing a 600-point drop.
The broad-based S&P 500 climbed 0.9 percent to 2,488, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.4 percent to 6,579.
The rebound heightened the euphoria caused by Wednesday's record one-day rally, which saw the key index make its largest intraday gain in history — a 5 percent rise.
Traders credited the last-minute surge, during the final 30 minutes of trading, to end-of-year bargain hunting.
For much of Thursday afternoon, the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq were down close to 2 percent as ongoing political turmoil in Washington over the partial shutdown of the US government continued to weigh on investors' minds, along with a new US consumer confidence report, which saw a steep decline in December.
The Conference Board's consumer confidence index fell more than eight points, the most significant change in any direction this year, to 128.1, the survey showed.
China's industrial giants disappoint
Earlier in the day, Tokyo's equity market surged but Chinese stocks slid on weak data showing that profits in the industrial sector had declined 1.8 percent in November.
The data pointed to a further loss of economic momentum in the world's second-largest economy as a trade dispute with the United States lingers.
Despite reports that a US government delegation will travel to Beijing in early January to hold fresh trade talks, Hussein Sayed, a strategist at online brokerage FXTM, told the Reuters news agency that the ongoing spat "remains the biggest unknown factor for 2019."
Gold, meanwhile, was set for its biggest monthly increase in almost two years, with many investors seeking havens amid intensifying global economic woes.
mm/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)