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LONDON (Reuters) - Oil prices plunged more than $2 to less than $70 a barrel on Thursday following news U.S. gasoline stocks had risen for the first time in two months.
U.S. light sweet crude was $2.23 a barrel lower at $70.05 a barrel by 1555 GMT, just off a session low of $69.85.
Brent futures fell $1.90 to $70.75.
Both contracts fell around $2 on Wednesday after U.S. inventory data signaled a 2.1 million barrel increase in gasoline stocks, soothing worries about inadequate supplies for the approaching U.S. driving season.
Fears that sanctions or even military action could lead to the disruption of Iranian crude supplies pushed U.S. crude to a record of $75.35 in April.
So far there is little sign that high prices are having a major impact on the world economy or denting consumption, though they are near to the inflation-adjusted highs that coincided with a sharp reduction in demand growth during the 1980s.
"Crude oil prices are now less than $20/barrel from the monthly peak of $89/barrel reached in November 1979," Barclays Capital wrote in a daily report.
Wednesday's U.S. government data indicated a softening in U.S. gasoline demand.