* Materials drag benchmark Australian index
* Energy stocks fall as investors eye OPEC meeting
* Financials lead gainers
* NZ declines on a2 Milk
By Aditya Soni
June 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged lower on Monday as falling prices of commodities and crude oil weighed on materials and energy stocks, offsetting gains in financials and health care.
The S&P/ASX 200 index dipped 4.95 points or 0.1 percent to 8,970.80 by 0209 GMT. The benchmark rose 1.3 percent on Friday.
Materials stocks, especially miners, accounted for most of the losses as metal prices extended their slide. Copper hit a near two-week low on Friday and was trading 0.4 percent lower on Monday.
The world’s biggest miner BHP fell 2.4 percent to a near three-week low, while its rival Rio Tinto Ltd dipped 2.1 percent to its lowest since June 6.
BHP, which has considerable oil exposure due to shale assets in the U.S., was also hurt by weakness in crude oil prices, making it the biggest drag on the main index.
Meanwhile, South32 Ltd fell as much as 4.2 percent and was on track for its day in nearly two months.
The manganese miner bid $1.3 billion to take full control of Arizona Mining, offering a hefty premium for the Toronto-listed firm which is developing zinc, lead, manganese and silver assets.
Global oil prices fell further on Monday, pushing the energy index 0.7 percent lower.
Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut, said energy stocks will be on focus this week due to an OPEC meeting.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which is de-facto led by Saudi Arabia, and some allies including Russia have been withholding output since the start of 2017. Producers will meet in Vienna on June 22 to decide forward production policy.
Woodside Petroleum Ltd declined 1 percent, while Santos Ltd slipped 1.7 percent.
Financials led the gainers, rising 0.6 percent to a near three-week high.
Rooney said banking stocks might be benefiting from a weaker local currency.
The Australian dollar hit a one-month low on Friday as investors favoured the greenback over most major currencies amid diverging monetary policy outlooks and fears of a global trade war.
Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose 1 percent to its highest since June 6, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd firmed 0.9 percent.
Health care stocks also accumulated profits, with biotherapeutics firm CSL Ltd rising 1.6 percent.
Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 4.20 points or 0.1 percent to 8,970.46.
Consumer staples led the decline, with a2 Milk Company Ltd falling 2.2 perecent, while Synlait Milk Ltd slipped 1.8 percent. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)