September 10, 2018 / 6:49 AM / 10 days ago

Aussie shares flat as health care, energy gains offset bank and materials losses; NZ down

* Banks and materials lead the fall in Australia

* Gains in health care and energy stocks offset losses

* NZ falls on health care weakness (Updates to close)

Sept 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed flat on Monday as losses in banks and materials, fuelled by a possible escalation in the Sino-U.S. trade conflict and a looming Federal Reserve rate hike, were offset by gains in health care and energy stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.03 percent or 2.1 points to 6,141.70 at the close of trade, its eighth straight session of losses. The benchmark declined 0.3 percent on Friday.

Financial heavyweights were among biggest drags on Monday, with a powerful Australian inquiry turning its attention to the A$46 billion ($32.70 billion) insurance sector.

Westpac Banking Corp fell 0.4 percent to its lowest since August 24, while National Australia Bank Ltd dipped 0.7 percent to a two-week low.

Earlier in the day NAB said it will not lift its variable mortgage rate as it tries to win public support following revelations of misconduct, and despite its three larger rivals hiking their own rates.

Materials, especially mining stocks, were also lower, hit by a sell-off in London copper which fell more than one percent.

BHP, the world’s biggest miner, slipped 0.3 percent to a more than four-month low, while its rival Rio Tinto Ltd dropped 0.8 percent.

But health care and energy stocks gained, braking the benchmark’s slide.

Health care stocks rose 0.6 percent on Monday, after recording their biggest weekly fall in more then seven years last week. Drugmaker CSL Ltd strengthened 0.7 percent.

A jump in oil prices boosted energy stocks, with Woodside Petroleum Ltd gaining 0.8 percent.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dipped 0.5 percent or 46.76 points to finish the session at 9,048.63.

Health care stocks amplified the bearish tone, with Ryman Healthcare Ltd declining 2.3 percent while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd fell 0.7 percent. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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