NEW YORK, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices recovered some lost ground in early Tuesday trading amid suggestions members of OPEC could meet to discuss the weak price environment.
Emmanuel Kachikwu, Nigeria's oil minister and current president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, said in an interview with CNN he expected ministers from the 13 members of the group to meet as early as February to discuss the steep drop in crude oil prices.
"The time has come" to hold an extraordinary meeting, he said.
Crude oil prices pulled out of negative territory by the time trading began Tuesday in New York. Brent crude oil gained 1.5 percent to start the day at $32.02 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for crude oil, was up 1.2 percent to $31.77 per barrel.
The last OPEC meeting in December was divisive as Iran and rival Saudi Arabia sparred over production levels. Iran has argued OPEC members should make room for the imminent increase in output that will come as the result of easing sanctions pressure. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has stood by its robust production policies, arguing it needed to ensure the eventual return of consumer demand.
Tensions between the two OPEC rivals escalated in early January following the Saudi execution of Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shiite cleric. Most market analysts say economic fundamentals are pressuring crude oil prices more than geopolitical tensions. Crude oil prices are down more than 10 percent since the start of the year on concerns about the pace of economic growth in China.
Markets remain skewed heavily toward the supply side. Speaking to OPEC minister last month in Vienna, Kachikwu said oil demand will grow by 1.3 million barrels per day in 2016, down from the expected full-year demand growth for 2015 of 1.5 million bpd.