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Oil hits two-month high on COVID vaccine hopes

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Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2-min read
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KRASNODAR TERRITORY, RUSSIA - JULY 17, 2020: A pumpjack at the Levkinskoye oil field. Igor Onuchin/TASS (Photo by Igor Onuchin\TASS via Getty Images)
A pumpjack at the Levkinskoye oil field. Photo: Igor Onuchin\TASS via Getty Images

Hopes of a working vaccine for COVID-19 have propelled oil prices to a two month high.

Crude futures (CL=F) climbed to their highest level since the start of September on Wednesday, while Brent futures (BZ=F) were also at a multi-month high. Crude was up 3.2% to $42.67 per barrel by lunchtime in London, while Brent was 2.9% higher at $44.87 per barrel.

Oil prices were being driven higher by hopes that Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech’s (BNTX) potential COVID-19 vaccine could herald a return to something like normality. That, in turn, could lead to a pick up in demand for oil.

Pfizer said on Monday that its vaccine candidate induced an immune response in 90% of cases. Health officials in the UK and US have talked about rolling it out as soon as next month.

Hopes of an imminent vaccine are supporting hopes of a pick-up in global travel, one of the biggest consumers of oil.

“Traders anticipate a return in demand for the months ahead,” said Josh Mahony, a senior market analyst at IG. “With a vaccine on the horizon, the prospect of global travel picking up bolsters sentiment around energy prices.”

READ MORE: EU signs deal to buy 300 million doses of BioNTech-Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Brent has now rallied 10% since Monday and crude futures have gained 11.5%. Marios Hadjikyriacos, and investment analyst at XM, called it a “relentless rally”.

However, Jon Rigby, an oil analyst with UBS, said the full impact of the vaccine on oil demand was likely still a ways off.

“In reality, this is more about normalising economic activity and mobility through 2021 and 2022, and hence the near-term market is less impacted than, say, the upcoming decisions by OPEC+ on quotas or the level of lockdowns needed in northern hemisphere economies through the approaching winter,” Rigby and his team wrote in a note.

While oil prices have rallied in recent days, prices are still around a third below where they were at the start of the year.

Watch: Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine candidate requires two shots, three weeks apart