OIL prices have reached a near three-month high amid growing hopes that an effective coronavirus vaccine could be made widely available within months, in a development that would be expected to provide a big boost to demand.

The price of Brent crude rose to $45.93 per barrel yesterday afternoon up $0.97/bbl on the day following the announcement that a vaccine developed by Oxford university and Astrazeneca had demonstrated strong effectiveness in tests.

The news came after a vaccine developed by Pfizer with BioNTech and one produced by Moderna also performed well in tests.

The rise took the Brent price to its highest level since the start of September.

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The US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, reached a similar high yesterday.

The Rystad Energy consultancy said positive news on the vaccine front had helped provide light at the end of the tunnel following months of market turmoil.

The news will be welcomed in the North Sea where firms are facing big challenges. The plunge in oil and gas prices triggered by the coronavirus crisis prompted companies to slash investment and jobs. Social distancing requirements are causing serious complications for firms that work offshore.

However, with prices still well below the levels seen at the start of the year conditions are set to remain tough.

Rystad warned it could take months before any vaccine is made available widely enough to have a big impact on demand trends.

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Oil and gas prices plunged to multi-year lows after lockdowns that were imposed in spring to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus hammered demand.

After rallying in the summer, prices came under renewed pressure amid fears the second wave of lockdowns imposed around the world in recent weeks could take a fresh toll on demand.

Brent crude sold for around $70/bbl in January.