June 19, 2018 / 6:40 AM / 5 months ago

Australian shares end flat as materials slide; NZ slumps

* Materials fall on commodities selloff

* Health care stocks outperform

* NZ posts biggest percentage drop in a month (Updates to close)

June 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed flat on Tuesday as a sharp fall in materials stocks offset gains in health care stocks and banks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index erased early gains to finish 2 points lower at 6,102.10. The benchmark added 0.2 percent on Monday.

Materials accounted for most of the losses on Tuesday, hurt by a sharp fall in iron ore prices.

Global miner BHP fell 1 percent, while rival Rio Tinto Ltd dropped 2.2 percent to a two-week low.

Conversely, health care stocks led the gainers, with pharmaceutical firm CSL Ltd rising 2.7 percent to a record high, while bionic ear maker Cochlear Ltd climbed 1.1 percent.

Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist with Blue Ocean Equities, said health care stocks were benefiting from a weaker local currency as they were global players.

The Australian dollar sank to its lowest in a year on Tuesday.

Banks also rose, with index heavyweight Commonwealth Bank of Australia rising 0.3 percent, while Macquarie Group Ltd firmed about 1.8 percent to a record high.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slumped 1.2 percent or 111 points to finish the session at 8,863.

Utilities and telecommunication services stocks accounted for most of the losses, with Spark New Zealand Ltd dipping about 3 percent, its biggest drop in nearly three months, while Mercury NZ Ltd slid 3.9 percent to its lowest since June 5. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru Editing by Eric Meijer)

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