NEW YORK, March 7 (UPI) -- China again pushed market momentum, with weekend economic pledges spilling over to Monday and lifting crude oil prices near the $40 per barrel mark.
Chinese Premier Li Kiqiang said during the weekend a five-year economic plan envisioned an average growth rate of around 7 percent, while taking into account a need for structural reforms in a stabilizing economy.
"It will also help guide market expectations and keep them stable," he said. "The aim of maintaining stable growth is primarily to ensure employment and promote the people's well-being, and a growth rate of between 6.5 percent and 7 percent will allow for relatively full employment."
A string of crashes on the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index brought 2016 off to a shaky economic start and eventually sent crude oil prices below $30 per barrel on fears of a significant slowdown in one of the world's leading economies.
The Shanghai Composite Index closed Monday up 0.8 percent to 2,897.3. Brent crude oil followed suit, moving up 0.74 percent to $39.01 per barrel about a half hour before the start of trading in New York. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for crude oil, was up 0.75 percent to $36.19 per barrel.
Crude oil prices are up about 5 percent since the start of the month and roughly 7 percent higher than the start of the year. Compared with this time last year, however, crude oil prices are 33 percent lower.
U.S. oil production is expected to decline this year and other major petroleum states are considering freezing their output at January levels in an effort to stabilize the market.
Oil field services company Baker Hughes reported 532 rigs actively exploring for or producing oil and natural gas in the United States in February, down from the 654 in service the previous month.