Chinese shares saw some of the steepest falls in 2008
Global markets saw record falls in 2008 as the financial turmoil and economic slowdown ended the stock market boom.
Britain's FTSE 100 had its worst year on record, down 31.3%, with similar falls in Paris and Frankfurt.
Shanghai was one of the worst-hit major markets, ending the year 65% lower, which was also a record loss.
In New York, the Dow Jones was up slightly on the day, but it has lost almost 34% of its value in 2008, its worst year since 1931.
On Wednesday, the Dow ended at 8,776, up 108 or 1.25% on the day, giving some slight encouragement at the end of a dismal year.
Justin Urquhart Stewart, at Seven Investment Management, said any optimism in the world's financial sector was "on the basis that stock markets recover first in recessions".
"Last year we were so optimistic, that we were fooling ourselves. It's now gone too far the other way. We've discounted a huge amount of bad news," he said.
The year saw the credit crisis push several major economies into recession, with banks particularly badly hit - many requiring government bail-outs.
At the close in London, the FTSE 100 index ended the year with a modest gain on its last day of trading on Wednesday. It was up 0.9% at 4,434 points.
However, for the year as a whole the index lost 31.3% of its value, the worst loss in its 24-year history.
2008 - MAJOR MARKET FALLS
New York - down 33.84%
London - down 31.3%
Paris - down 42.7%
Frankfurt - down 40.4%
Mumbai - down 51.9%
Singapore - down 49.2%
Sydney - down 41.3%
Hong Kong - down 48.3%
Shanghai - down 65.2%
Tokyo - down 42.1%
There were similar losses in Frankfurt and in Paris.
In Frankfurt, the Dax-30 ended 2008 down 40%, which was the index's second-worst annual performance in its 20-year history. The index had risen 22% in 2007.
Technology firm Infineon was the Dax's biggest loser in 2008, down 88.1%, followed by Commerzbank, down 74.7%.
"I believe that we will have a lot of problems next year and much deeper prices than this year. But where we will be at the end of the year, absolutely no clue," said Dirk Mueller of MWB Fairtrading.
Shanghai's fall wiped nearly $3 trillion (£2.1 trillion) off share values. Shanghai soared more than 300% in 2006 and 2007.
Japanese shares also suffered their biggest yearly decline, with the Nikkei dropping 42% as world's second-largest economy slid into recession.
As a meltdown of the US housing market led to a global slump in consumer spending and industrial production, foreign firms withdrew investments from Asia to repay debts back home.
In many cases, markets that had benefited most during the previous bull-run were the worst affected as it ended.
As demand in overseas markets slowed, Asia's export-driven economies were hard hit.
In Hong Kong, which is in recession, the Hang Seng index closed the year 48% lower.
This was its second-biggest drop to date and its worst since the global oil shock of the early 1970s.
India's main index in Mumbai has more than halved.
"It was ferocious, it was an unprecedented move down. The domino effect was so quick and so swift," said Lucinda Chan of Macquarie Securities in Sydney.
A surging yen added to the woes of Japan's biggest exporters such as Toyota and Sony, while political upheaval hit Thailand's market.
"No one saw an end to the bull run," said Kirby Daley, at Newedge Group in Hong Kong.
"What many failed to see was an endgame to the leveraged world we were living in and an endgame to the consumption-driven economy that the world had become."
Whether the stock markets fall further in 2009 is a matter of debate.
Many investment strategists have written off any chance of a major rebound in at least the first six months of the new year, when company earnings could prove especially bleak.
How China's economy shapes up will also be closely watched. Fourth quarter growth in 2008 is already forecast to drop to as low as 2% from nearly 12% in 2007.
"China's economy is obviously at a turning point. There are too many uncertainties, and past huge losses have made investors increasingly cautious," said Cheng Weiqing, at Citic Securities in Beijing.
Asia's fortunes could depend greatly on the mood of consumers, especially in the US, where their appetite for cars, electronics and other goods has been the driver of regional growth.