UPDATE 8am: The Australian sharemarket has opened almost 1.5 per cent weaker as former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's strong electoral showing sparked fears of eurozone instability.
At 7.26am, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 75.1 points, or 1.49 per cent, at 4980.7 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index was down 73.3 points, or 1.44 per cent, to 4999.4 points.
On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was down 74 points at 4,968 points, with 10,887 contracts traded.
The local market followed Wall Street lower, after Mr Berlusconi's centre-right coalition appeared to be ahead in the Senate race, but only slightly behind in the lower house.
CMC Markets chief market analyst Ric Spooner said the possibility of a political impasse in Italy for an incoming government was creating uncertainty amongst investors.
“There is a significant political risk to the euro zone,” he told AAP.
“This election, in one of the biggest economies, which has one of the largest debts, is an indication that that mandate may not be forthcoming.
“Over the medium term, that elevates the risks to the globe of some future problems.”
Mr Spooner said Australian earnings results would be unlikely to set the tone of the market, as investors focused on long-time central bank critic Haruhiko Kuroda's elevation to become the next Bank of Japan governor.
“If that happens, it will be seen as a ... short-term positive, because he would clearly be a pro-stimulus central bank governor,” he said.
QBE Insurance shares fell 66 cents, or 5.07 per cent, to $12.37 at 7.35am, after announcing an annual profit growth of 8 per cent, lower than previously forecast due to severe droughts and storms in the United States.
QBE made a net profit of $US761 million ($A741.97 million) in the year to December 31, up from $US704 million in the previous corresponding period.
Seven Group Holdings shares shed 12 cents, or 1.19 per cent, to $9.93 despite flagging a rise of up to 20 per cent in full year profit.
Meanwhile, Virgin Australia shares lost one cent, or 2.3 per cent, to 42.5 cents, after revealing its first half profit has slumped by 56 per cent.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 216.40 points, or 1.55 per cent, to 13,784.17, marking the index's biggest single-day drop since November.
The broad-based S&P 500 lost 27.75, or 1.83 per cent, to 1487.85, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index sank 45.57, or 1.44 per cent, to 3116.25.
National turnover was 454.25 million securities worth $736.21 million with 175 up, 505 down and 267 unchanged.