May 21, 2018 / 6:49 AM / 7 months ago

Australian shares end flat as financials and materials weigh; NZ falls

* Aussie shares close in red for third consecutive session

* Financials biggest drag on the benchmark

* NZ declines on slump in consumer staples (Updates to close)

May 21 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed flat on Monday as losses in materials and banking stocks offset positive sentiment stemming from easing U.S.-China trade tensions, while the healthcare index rose to a record high on an extended rally in CSL Ltd.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 2.90 points to 6,084.5 at the close of trade. The benchmark declined 0.1 percent on Friday.

Banks fell, dragging on the benchmark. Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia declined 0.6 percent to its lowest since Sept. 2016, while Westpac Banking Corp dipped 0.7 percent to a three-week low.

Materials stocks also traded lower as China’s Dalian iron ore futures fell more than 3 percent.

Global miner BHP slipped 0.4 percent and rival Rio Tinto Ltd slid 0.9 percent.

But biotherapeutics developer CSL Ltd rose to its highest level ever after raising its annual profit outlook on Friday.

Positive sentiment from CSL spilled over to the broader sector, with the Australian healthcare index rising 1.4 percent to a record high.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.5 percent or 41.61 points to finish the session at 8,615.72.

Consumer staples led the decline, with heavyweight a2 Milk Company Ltd dipping 2.3 percent, while Comvita Ltd slumped 8 percent to a nine-month low.

Health products producer Comvita said that talks with an unnamed third party for a possible takeover of the company have ended without a deal due to a “considerable distance” between the parties on price. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru Editing by Eric Meijer)

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