Financial panic sped around the world yesterday as a series of stock market collapses followed the sun from Asia through Europe and back to New York.

The panic started over again this morning in Tokyo. Even before the market opened, major securities houses were being flooded with sell orders. By the time the market closed for lunch at midday the Nikkei average of 225 stocks was down a record 1,873.80 yen to 23,872.80, a drop of about 7.3 percent. The past record for a largest single-day drop was 831.32 yen, last April.

Japanese Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa said that he did not expect the bottom to drop out of the Tokyo stock market. "The Japanese economy now is improving so I think the Tokyo market will react cooly." He also said that he thought it would be incorrect to look for similarities in the current Wall Street crash and that of 1929 because the American economy today is more stable, with more checks to prevent a stock market induced depression.

In Hong Kong, officials announced that the market would not open and might not open for the rest of the week, because of an 11 percent loss yesterday. And in Sydney, the major market index lost 20 percent of its value in the first 40 minutes of panicked trading.

Yesterday, markets throughout the world took huge losses, including the biggest one-day plunge in the history of the London Stock Exchange, in reaction to last week's record declines on the New York Stock Exchange and comments by Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III that were interpreted to mean that the United States wants the dollar to fall further.

In London alone the losses were estimated at $80 billion, 12 percent of the total value of shares on the exchange.

It was the first time so many stock exchanges around the world have taken such a beating in a single day, a result of the globalization of financial markets. In this new international marketplace money is transferred from country to country with a telephone call and there barely is an hour in the day when some exchange is not trading stock.

"This is our first really global crash," said Prof. Morris Mendelson of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. The markets "are all tied together. This is one financial world today."

"For the first time, you have a global economy," added Prof. Jagdish N. Sheth of the University of Southern California School of Business Administration. "What happens in one market can be picked up very quickly in the others. It began here last week, spread to Tokyo, Hong Kong and London today {Monday}. Speed is the key. It happened in the old days, but now it takes hours, not weeks."

In Tokyo, the biggest losers were export-related issues such as electronics and autos. The market fall there followed by only a few days a surge last Wednesday that took the index to a new high of 26,646.43 yen. Yesterday's close was 25,746.56 yen.

In Hong Kong, panic selling hit the market, which also suffered its worst single-day loss. Dealers noted that the selloff was even greater than the sharp fall touched off in 1983 on the announcement that the Crown Colony would become part of China when the British lease expires in 1997.

Elsewhere in Asia, markets in Singapore and Sydney also plunged to record losses before the sharp downturn moved across to Europe.

In London, where the stock market fell 249.6 points, close to five times the previous record loss for a day, some British brokers drowned their sorrows in champagne.

"It's the traditional way to celebrate disaster, and believe me today has been a disaster," said broker Symon Wright.

The London market was closed Friday because of a major storm, and when it opened yesterday major investment institutions, pension funds and insurance houses already had fists full of sell orders based on the drops on Wall Street last week.

The selling pressure was compounded by fears of major storm-related insurance claims and news that Asian markets were falling.

The midday news of the U.S. raid on an Iranian oil rig, raising fears of a widening of the war in the Persian Gulf, worsened the fall.

At the end of last week, the Financial Times Index stood at just over 2300. Within 10 minutes of yesterday's opening, it had dropped 136.9 points and by early afternoon the fall had increased to 280.2.

When Wall Street opened with a downward spiral, the London exchange fell to its lowest point of the day, a drop of 301.27 points, before recovering slightly at the close.

Analysts had hoped that the selling frenzy hitting the world would stop in London, especially since there is high confidence in the stability of the British economy.

When the tidal wave of sales engulfed the London exchange, however, analysts pointed the finger of blame at Reagan administration economic policies.

"I think the essence of the problem is a lack of confidence about American {economic} policy and a worry that U.S. interest rates are going higher," said Roger Bootle, chief economist at Lloyd's Merchant Bank.

The fall may increase problems for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, since it came as her government is in the midst of selling off major government-owned enterprises.

There were concerns in the market that the stock plunge will hurt investor interest in the largest-ever share sale when government-owned British Petroleum Co. is put on the block later this month.

In Frankfurt, the stock market also took a dive as the widely watched Commerzbank index dropped 132.5 points, to 1744.11, again a record fall.

The market stayed open an extra 30 minutes to cope with a surge of small orders and because of the difficulties in finding buyers for the flood of sell orders.

Germany's concern over a further fall in the U.S. dollar played a major role in influencing the stock market plunge, analysts said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Baker, who was in Bonn meeting with German financial officials yesterday, had hinted over the weekend that the United States might let the dollar drop against the mark because Germany is not living up to the Louvre agreement by holding down short-term interest rates.

The increase in the value of the mark has hurt profit margins of German corporations.

"I've been on the bourse 30 years, through the Cuban missle crisis and revaluations {of the West German mark}, but I've never seen anything like this," the Associated Press quoted a broker at a major Frankfurt bank as saying.

Prices also plunged on other stock markets throughout Europe. In Amsterdam, dealers called the selloff "the Monday massacre" as prices fell a record 12.9 percent.

The Paris Bourse index dropped 8.22 percent, the biggest loss since the 1981 election of Socialist President Francois Mitterrand.

"The markets are telling us that something is going wrong in the international economy," said Alessandro Valeri, head of the foreign exchange department at Sige Spa.

"I've never experienced anything like this, and I've been in business for 20 years," said Bernhard Wyttenbach, head of European research at Union Bank of Switzerland in Zurich, where shares fell 11 percent.

"As soon as the dollar stabilizes -- and that's the key -- then we'll get a strong movement upward. People are simply worried that in America, where the market has now fallen by 18 percent since August, the bull market is over. People are afraid that we'll have a recession."

Karen DeYoung, Robert J. McCartney and Margaret Shapiro of the Washington Post Foreign Service contributed to this report.