Asian share markets were trying to stabilize today after a wave of early selling petered out and Wall Street futures managed a solid bounce, allowing investors to take a break from coronavirus fears.

Some dealers cited a Wall Street Journal report on a possible vaccine as helping sentiment, though human tests of the drug might not start until the end of April.

Whatever the cause, E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 recovered 1 percent to pare some of the steep 3.35 percent loss the cash index suffered overnight.

In South Korea, where coronavirus cases have surged, the hard-hit Kospi edged up 0.8 percent and helped MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fight back to flat.

Japan's Nikkei was still down 2.8 percent, but just catching up to the global sell-off having been shut on Monday. Shanghai blue chips eased 0.7 percent but had also bounced back from early lows.

Shares in the United States and Europe had suffered their biggest loses since mid-2016 amid fears the coronavirus was morphing into a pandemic that could cripple global supply chains and wreak far greater economic damage than first thought.

The risks were such that bond markets were wagering central banks would have to ride to the rescue with new stimulus.

Futures for the US Federal Reserve funds rate have surged in the last few days to price in a 50-50 chance of a quarter-point rate cut as early as April. In all, they imply more than 50 basis points, or 0.5 percent, of interest rate reductions by year's end.

Central banks across Asia have already been easing policy, while governments have promised large injections of fiscal stimulus, something Western countries might also have to consider.

"This is a world now where economies are so intertwined that it's hard to know what the economic impact will be," said Rodrigo Catril, a currency strategist at NAB.

"It's certainly hard to see a catalyst that might stop the losses in the near term, though the market has moved aggressively to price in US rate cuts as early as June."

Underlining the economic effects of the virus was a 3.5 percent drop in Apple Inc as data showed sales of smartphones in China tumbled by more than a third in January.

The Dow ended Monday down 3.55 percent, while the S&P 500 lost 3.35 percent and the Nasdaq 3.71 percent. Wall Street's fear gauge, the CBOE Volatility Index, jumped to its highest close since early 2019.