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Global markets to log worst quarter since 2011

An investor stands in front of an electronic board showing stock information in Fuyang, China.
Reuters
An investor stands in front of an electronic board showing stock information in Fuyang, China.

Global stock markets are headed for their weakest quarterly performance in four years after a torrid summer that saw investor sentiment rocked by developments in the world's two largest economies.

A sustained collapse in commodity prices, China's stunning market rout followed by its shocking currency devaluation as well as fears of a Greek default and a September U.S. interest rate hike were some of the numerous factors that made the past three months a summer to remember (or forget) for investors.

"Global equities are closing in on their worst quarter since 2011, with a number of factors fueling fears in an already jittery market, including weak global growth, driven by deceleration in emerging markets, particularly China," Barclays analysts said in a Wednesday report.

Read MoreEmerging market ETFs suffered $19B in outflows this year

China's benchmark Shanghai Composite appeared to be one of the world's worst performers with a 25 percent loss, its weakest performance since 2008.

In comparison, the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq were all headed for a 9 percent loss. In Europe, Germany's Dax was set for a 15 decline, 11 percent for the French CAC, 8 percent for Italy and 13 percent for the Ibex.

Indeed, much of the blame seems to be falling on weakness in emerging markets (EMs).

New data from the International Institute of Finance (IIF) on Wednesday showed EMs suffered their worst quarter since 2008 as global investors sold $40 billion of EM assets. During 2008, the height of the global financial crisis, emerging markets saw outflows to the tune of $105 billion, the IIF said.

"Dovish signals after the Fed's policy meeting [earlier this month] only provided a short-lived boost to EM portfolio flows, and daily data show renewed outflows in late September," the organization noted.

A look at Asia

Asia-Pacific indices also logged their weakest quarterly performance since 2011, aggravated by a global stock rout in August, Bernard Aw, IG market strategist, told CNBC.

Out of the region's 15 major stock markets, only one ended the third quarter in positive territory.

Sri Lanka's Colombo Stock Exchange posted a modest 0.5 percent bounce amid foreign buying and a more market-oriented currency. Earlier this month, Sri Lanka's central bank stopped quoting a reference rate for the local rupee, letting markets determine the rate instead. Political stability has also returned with the formation of a new unity government under President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe following elections in August.

The region's weakest market after Shanghai was Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index, which ended the quarter 20 percent lower. Among other major losers, the Nikkei 225 and Indonesia's Jakarta Composite both declined 14 percent.

Read MoreHK stocks: Between a rock and a hard place

Bets going forward

Many analysts expect a cloud of pessimism to loom over global equity markets for a while, warning that any short-term rallies will likely be temporary.

"With downside risks to commodities and worries about debt-laden emerging markets being buffeted by U.S. rate hikes persisting, dead cat bounces could disappoint for some time!" said Mizuho senior economist Vishnu Varathan, alluding to a market term for a short-lived increase in the price of a declining asset.

Barclays recommends overweight positions in Japanese and European equities since valuations in the U.S. are relatively less attractive.

The Nikkei index is currently trading at a price to earnings (P/E) ratio of 16.92, compared with 18.14 for the S&P 500, according to Reuters data. The corresponding figure for the Euro Stoxx 600 index is 15.36. A higher P/E ratio suggests that stocks are more expensive relative to earnings.

For the October-December period, IG's Aw predicts Japanese equities could be among the best performers within Asia, citing solid corporate earnings thanks to a weaker yen and valuations that are at four-year lows.

"In addition, the Nikkei may be bolstered by fresh speculations of more Bank of Japan easing, especially if inflation readings deteriorate considerably in the coming months."