AUSTRALIAN shares have taken their biggest tumble since the global financial crisis with $59 billion stripped from the market as uncertainty grips global markets.

The benchmark ASX 200 index has closed down 4.1 per cent, with the losses felt across the board from banks to resources stocks.

The index tumbled 2.6 per cent within the first 30 minutes of trade today — one of the worst openings to a trading session in the past five years — and then plunged as trading continued.

Shares in Westpac, financial advice group AMP and mining heavywieght Rio Tinto all tanked more than 5 per cent.

The other banks also fell heavilybanks also fell heavily, with ANZ and National Australia Bank down 5.1 per cent and National Australia Bank down 4.7 per cent. Shares in the Commonwealth Bank fell 4.1 per cent.

Mum and dad favourite, Telstra, had also dropped by more than one per cent.

The slump in the ASX 200 was the biggest for any day since January 2009 — the depths of the financial crisis.

Asian sharemarkets have also been swept up in the rout.

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