Preliminary surveys showed that manufacturing in the U.S., Germany, France and the wider eurozone had slowed in March.
The yield, or interest rate on the 10-year Treasury fell to a fresh low for the year. In addition, the spread between three-month Treasury bills and 10-year bond yields inverted for the first time since 2007. An inverted yield curve is seen as a potential signal of a recession.
News that the European Union offered to only briefly extend the Brexit deadline added to uncertainty.
European Union leaders have agreed to delay Brexit until May 22, the eve of the EU elections, instead of next Friday as previously planned.
The preliminary Markit manufacturing purchasing managers' index for Germany, which was released on Friday, fell to 44.7 in March from 47.6 in the previous month. In France, the reading fell to 49.8 from 51.5 in February. A similar report for the wider eurozone also retreated to 47.6 from 49.3.
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Readings for services in all three surveys fell, too. Numbers below 50 indicate contraction on the index's 100-point scale.
In Europe, the major markets finished th day with losses. London’s FTSE shed 2 percent, Germany's DAX lost 1.6 percent and France’s CAC gave up 2 percent.
The U.S. joined the same parade of downbeat data when a flash reading of the IHS Markit U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index fell to a seasonally adjusted 52.5 in March, its lowest reading since June 2017. This was down from 53 in February.
In other reports, the National Association of Realtors said on Friday existing home sales jumped 11.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.51 million units last month.That was the highest level since March 2018 and well above analysts' expectations of a rate of 5.1 million units.
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Shares of Nike dropped after the sportswear maker's quarterly revenue missed analyst expectations.
Indonesia’s flag airline, Garuda Indonesia, says it is canceling its orders for the Boeing Max 737 jet, the first carrier to publicly do so after the aircraft was involved in two deadly crashes in less than five months.
U.S. and Chinese officials will meet in Beijing next Thursday and Friday for high-level trade talks, aimed at ending a tariffs battle between the world's two biggest economies.
Asian indexes reversed early losses on optimism surrounding the talks. The Shanghai Composite index finished 0.1 percent higher, Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.1 percent and Japan's Nikkei 225 index, reopening after a market holiday, edged 0.1 percent higher.
The Associated Press contributed to this article