Mumbai: The Bombay Stock Exchange benchmark Sensex fell below the 16k level for the first time in nearly 15 months before recovering a little to close at 16,141.67, down 328.12 points, on frantic selling amid global equities sell-off on fears of a worldwide economic slowdown.

Sensex plunged to an intra-day low of 15,987.77, a level last seen on May 25, 2010, on negative global cues.

Asian as well as European markets fell on concerns that the US and European economies may be headed for a recession, which would hurt corporate profits already under pressure from high domestic inflation and rising interest rates.

The broad-based National Stock Exchange index Nifty broke technical support level of 4,800 and ended 98.50 points lower at 4,845.65 led by a steep fall in financial and interest sensitive stock.

Software exporters, which have high exposure to US and Europe were hit the most, led by Sensex heavyweights such as Infosys, TCS and Wipro. These companies get about 85 per cent revenues from these markets.

The most-heaviest on the Sensex, Reliance Industries lost 1.18 per cent to Rs 731.20 and second heaviest Infosys by 5.79 per cent to Rs 2,225.40, its lowest since November 2009.

A major pull-down to the market was on the back of heavy fall in front runners such as L&T, SBI, Tata Motors and Sun Pharma.