March 9, 2018 / 6:03 AM / in 16 days

Aussie shares eke out gain as materials weigh; NZ rises

* Australian shares gain 0.6 percent for the week

* BHP ends at near 3-mth low (Updates to close)

March 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended slightly higher on Friday as gains across a number of sectors outpaced a decline in materials, allowing the benchmark to end the week higher.

Material stocks faced heavy selling pressure after U.S. President Donald Trump pressed ahead on Thursday with import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent for aluminum, but exempted Canada and Mexico and offered the possibility of excluding other allies.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 0.3 percent, or 20.3 points, at 5,963.2, and gained about 0.6 percent through a tumultous week.

Finanicals led gains, with the ‘big-four banks’ all ending higher for the day. Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the biggest company on the index by market capitalisation, advanced 0.9 percent.

Financials tracked their U.S. peers higher, as the S&P finance sector index ended 0.3 percent higher overnight.

However, those gains were largely offset by losses for Australian miners.

BHP Billiton, the largest miner on the index (and the world) by market capitalisation, fell 1.7 percent, and was by far the biggest drag on the index. The stock ended at its lowest since December 2017.

The benchmark metals and mining index ended 2 percent lower. Rio Tinto fell about 2.7 percent to its lowest close since December.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Friday he was hopeful of securing an exemption from U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminium after sustained lobby effort by his government.

Gold stocks also fell following gold prices, which extended losses after dollar strengthened against the yen on hopes of easing tensions between the United States and North Korea and ahead of U.S. non-farm payroll data later in the day.

New Zealand shares ended higher, led by telecommunication stocks, while a dip in healthcare stocks checked gains.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 percent or 31.1 points to finish the session at 8,390.01. The index gained 1.2 percent for the week.

Telecommunications provider Spark New Zealand ended 3.5 percent higher and was the biggest boost to the index, while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp ended 1.7 percent lower.

Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill

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