French and German stocks were in the firing line again, with the CAC down 2.5 percent and the DAX falling 2.4 percent.
Oil prices ticked higher, shrugging off some weakness seen on Tuesday. Benchmark Brent futures were up 26 cents at $49.44 per barrel in morning trade. U.S. crude was near $43.32 per barrel, up 30 cents from Tuesday when it marked it lowest settlement since March 2009.
Some key data releases were also expected on Wednesday, with June JOLTS data due at 10.00 a.m. ET, followed by the July Federal Budget statement at 2.00 p.m.
Major earnings due on Wednesday included Alibaba and Macy's before market open. Cisco and News Corp are both due after the bell.
Federal Reserve policies can benefit U.S. labor markets but cannot alone solve the so-called skills mismatch between workers and employers, New York Fed President William Dudley said in prepared remarks, Reuters reported.
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Investors will also be looking to the major data release of the week, retail sales, out on Thursday.
CNBC's Patti Domm contributed to this report.