Trading floors began the new year in a state of chaos as weak economic data from China and heightened tension in the Middle East wreaked havoc on financial markets worldwide.

Britain’s benchmark index suffered its worst new year start in 16 years. The last time the FTSE 100 made such a bad start to the year was on January 4, 2000, when it sank 3.81pc – its worst new year start in the FTSE 100’s 31-year history.

After suffering its worst year since 2011, the FTSE 100 closed down 158.89 points, or 2.39pc, to 6,093.43.

More than £38bn had been wiped off Britain’s leading companies when markets closed on Monday – compared with a total of £80bn in the last 12 months.

The opening bell on Wall Street did not bring any relief, as the mayhem in China also rattled US markets. By 5.30pm, the S&P had slipped 1.3pc lower, while the Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq Composite index lost 2.2pc and 2.7pc respectively.

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