LONDON  - Oil rallied this week, with Brent hitting a six-month high on recent upbeat data, winter weather in the northern hemisphere and Iran tensions, while other commodities steadied as traders eyed Greek news.

“This week, the crude oil markets broke free from almost a month of range-bound trading, as a combination of improved macro data, the arrival of winter weather, new supply disruptions and amplified geopolitical tension boosted prices,” said Barclays Capital analyst Sudakshina Unnikrishnan. “Base metal prices have generally stabilised in early February following a very strong start to the year. For precious metals, gold and silver surrendered some of the gains made the previous week.”

Meanwhile, raw materials giant Glencore and mining firm Xstrata unveiled a blockbuster merger on Tuesday to create a $90-billion (69-billion-euro) powerhouse. Glencore is the world’s biggest commodities trader with mining assets in key minerals such as aluminum, copper, lead and zinc. It also has interests in coal, oil and agricultural products including cotton, sugar and wheat. Anglo-Swiss firm Xstrata is the biggest global exporter of thermal coal and also produces copper, nickel and zinc.

OIL: Brent oil prices spiked on Thursday to $118.79 per barrel — the highest level since August 1 — as the market was propelled by ongoing tensions in key crude producer Iran and tentative hopes of a Greek debt deal.

“Hopes of a new bail-out package for Greece, the weaker US dollar and the ongoing supply risks due to Iran, Sudan and Nigeria are giving buoyancy to oil prices,” said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.

“Additional support is provided by the frosty conditions in Europe which weather experts predict will continue until the end of the month,” he added.

However, heading into the weekend, prices tailed off as investors took flight over weak Chinese trade figures, sliding global stock markets and fresh problems over a new Greek rescue deal. European and US stock markets fell in reaction to violent protests in Athens that rocked Greece’s divided government after the eurozone held up a bailout.

A fall in China’s imports and exports in January added to evidence that the world’s second-largest economy was slowing as the eurozone crisis and weakness in the United States hurt demand for Chinese products.

Eurozone finance ministers on Thursday postponed a decision on a new bailout to save Greece from bankruptcy, giving Athens less than a week to meet new conditions in return for aid. Greece is running out of time to finalise additional budget cuts to secure a eurozone bailout worth 130 billion euros ($171 billion) and faces possible bankruptcy on March 20 if it cannot repay 14.5 billion euros in maturing debt. A critical vote on the new austerity measures is scheduled to be held on Sunday.

Oil sentiment took a slight hit after the International Energy Agency and the OPEC oil producers’ cartel both cut their estimates for 2012 global oil demand growth. By late Friday on London’s Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in March jumped to $116.93 a barrel from $113.38 the previous week. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) or light sweet crude for March rose to $98.04 from $97.31.

PRECIOUS METALS: Gold fell, dragging most precious metals lower, as traders eyed Chinese trade data and ongoing Greek woes, and took profits after striking a two-month high the previous week.

Glamorous metal gold had hit $1,763.15 an ounce on February 3, reaching the highest level since December 2, after a raft of upbeat global manufacturing data. By late Friday on the London Bullion Market, gold slid to $1,711.50 an ounce from $1,734 the previous week. Silver dipped to $33.55 an ounce from $33.93. On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum firmed to $1,638 an ounce from $1,630. Palladium declined to $697 an ounce from $711.

BASE METALS: Base or industrial metals struck a stable note.  “Broad support for base metals from positive macroeconomic data and events remains, particularly indications of a stabilisation in the global industrial sector early in 2012, as well as constructive developments in the eurozone,” added analyst Unnikrishnan at Barclays Capital.

By late Friday on the London Metal Exchange, copper for delivery in three months firmed to $8,500 a tonne from $8,492 the previous week.

Three-month aluminium increased to $2,255 a tonne from $2,234.

Three-month lead eased to $2,163 a tonne from $2,206.

Three-month tin rose to $24,900 a tonne from $24,260.

Three-month zinc slid to $2,089 a tonne from $2,126.

Three-month nickel dipped to $20,871 a tonne from $21,071.

COCOA: Prices fell further as the market was hit by another wave of profit-taking.

By Friday on LIFFE, London’s futures exchange, cocoa for delivery in March dropped to £1,433 a tonne from £1,447 a week earlier.

In New York on the NYBOT-ICE, cocoa for March sank to $2,199 a tonne from $2,232.

COFFEE: The coffee market soared to $2,000 per tonne in London, hitting the highest level since early December, lifted by forecasts of falling global production and a sharp slowdown in output Vietnam.

By Friday on LIFFE, Robusta for delivery in March jumped to $1,973 a tonne from $1,826 a week earlier.

On NYBOT-ICE, Arabica for March eased to 215.85 US cents a pound from 215.95 cents.

SUGAR: Sugar futures rose, rebounding from losses the previous week.

By Friday on LIFFE, the price of a tonne of white sugar for March increased to $650.30 from $629.20.

On NYBOT-ICE, the price of unrefined sugar for delivery in March rose to 24.31 US cents a pound from 23.61 cents a week earlier.

RUBBER: Prices edged higher amid lingering concerns over limited supplies.

The Malaysian Rubber Board’s benchmark SMR20 rose to 372.70 US cents a kilo from 369.95 cents the previous week.