Oil prices plunged on Thursday, losing about 5% as trade tensions dampened the demand outlook, putting the crude benchmarks on course for their biggest daily and weekly falls in six months.

Oil coursed downward with other global markets as concerns grew that the China-U.S. trade conflict was fast turning into a technology cold war between the world's two largest economies, Reuters said.

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While the trade war is the main cloud over economic growth and demand predictions, market participants also pointed to weakening U.S. data and overfull U.S. crude stockpiles.

"Again, we're seeing the effect of worries about the trade issue on demand," said Gene McGillian, vice president at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut. Funds and money managers who had built up long positions are "heading to the exits" as trade concerns dim the demand outlook, he said.

Brent crude futures, the international benchmark, settled down $3.23, or 4.6%, at $67.76 a barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures dropped $3.51, or 5.7%, to $57.91 a barrel. Earlier, the contract touched $57.33 a barrel, the lowest since March 13.

That was a second consecutive daily decline for the benchmarks. WTI fell 2.5% on Wednesday after government data showed U.S. crude inventories rose last week, hitting their highest levels since July 2017.