Stock markets, oil prices and bitcoin sank Wednesday as a raft of issues ranging from rising inflation to China's cryptocurrency crackdown spooked investors.

Wall Street had opened sharply lower, joining markets in Europe and Asia that fell on fears central banks will wind down easy money policies to tame inflation.

But US markets rallied somewhat, finishing only modestly down after Federal Reserve meeting minutes showed the US central bank inching closer to shifting monetary policy, but not in any hurry to do so.

Oil prices were also under pressure after US data showed a jump in stockpiles and as virus-hit Asia experiences a weak pick-up in demand.

Bitcoin, meanwhile, shed a whopping 30 percent after China signaled a new crackdown on the cryptocurrency and tycoon Elon Musk sent mixed signals about his car company's use of the unit.

Bitcoin fell to almost $30,000 -- less than half the record level it reached last month -- before recovering a bit to around $39,587.

China said digital currencies could not be used in markets as they were not real, adding that firms were not allowed to use the units to price their goods or services.

"This is the latest chapter of China tightening the noose around crypto," said Antoni Trenchev, managing partner and co-founder of London-based crypto lender Nexo.

Bitcoin later recovered somewhat after an ambiguous Musk tweet with diamond and open hands emoji that some observers interpreted as meaning Tesla would not selling bitcoin.

Musk had previously expressed concerns about the energy-intensive process in mining bitcoin.

Meanwhile, London equities had shed 1.2 percent as trading ended, after official data showed a spike in UK inflation in April.

Frankfurt dived by 1.8 percent and Paris lost 1.4 percent.

US stocks also appeared heading for an ugly session, but recovered somewhat. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down 0.5 percent at 33,896.04, more than 400 points above session lows.

Fed minutes showed some officials believe the US economy may soon be healthy enough to taper asset purchases, one of the first signs of a shift in the central bank's easy money policies.

"Thinking about, thinking about tapering," said a note from Oxford Economics that describes the Fed's deliberate moves towards a shift. The firm predicted that the Fed would formally change course in August.

But the Fed minutes were enough to boost the dollar against other major currencies.

Bitcoin fell around 10 percent after the Chinese central bank said it could not be used for transactions Bitcoin fell around 10 percent after the Chinese central bank said it could not be used for transactions Photo: AFP / Ozan KOSE

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.5 percent at 33,896.04 (close)

New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.3 percent at 4,115.68 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 13,299.74 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 1.2 percent at 6,950.20 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 1.8 percent at 15,113.56 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 1.4 percent at 6,262.55 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.7 percent at 3,936.74 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.3 percent at 28,044.45 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.5 percent at 3,510.96 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: Closed for a holiday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2186 from $1.2222 at 2100 GMT on Tuesday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.4109 from $1.4189

Euro/pound: UP at 86.27 pence from 86.14 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.21 yen from 108.90 yen

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 3.0 percent at $66.66 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 3.3 percent at $63.36 per barrel