September 26, 2018 / 2:23 AM / 24 days ago

Australia shares edge higher as materials rally; NZ falls

* Aussie shares rise on materials

* Materials climb on the back of higher iron ore prices

* Energy stocks also underpin bullish sentiment

By Aditya Soni

Sept 26 (Reuters) - Australian shares ticked up on Wednesday, as materials and energy stocks gained on the back of higher oil and commodity prices, offsetting losses in banks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 percent or 10.10 points to 6,196 by 0200 GMT. It slipped 1 point on Tuesday.

A jump in January iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange bolstered investor appetite for materials stocks, making them the most dominant gainers on the benchmark.

“Investors are putting money back into the mining stocks and they are betting effectively, the trade war is not going to be anywhere near as bad as people thought,” said Greg McKenna, an independent analyst in Australia.

McKenna said demand for materials was also supported by “iron ore threatening to break out of the down trend that goes all the way back to 2011”.

The metals and mining index jumped 1.3 percent to a more than 1-1/2 month high.

BHP, the country’s largest firm by market value, firmed 1.4 percent to a two-month high, while rival Rio Tinto Ltd rose as much as 2 percent to its highest since August 1.

Energy stocks also supplemented the gains, benefiting from a rally in oil prices, although Brent crude futures were down 0.5 percent after gaining nearly 1 percent in the previous session. Brent hit its highest since November 2014 at $82.55 per barrel on Tuesday.

Index heavyweight Woodside Petroleum Ltd strengthened 1.7 percent to a near four-high, while Santos Ltd climbed 1.8 percent to a near 3-1/2 year high.

Before market opened on Wednesday, Santos said it plans to nearly double production to more than 100 million barrels of oil equivalent a year by 2025.

However, financial stocks dipped 0.3 percent to their lowest in more than a week and were on track to extend losses to a third consecutive session.

An interim report of the powerful Royal Commission inquiry into Australia’s banking and financial services sector is due no later than Sept. 30

Investors suspect the Royal Commission could hit the financial sector hard, so that’s affecting the movement, McKenna said.

Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 0.5 percent and was the major top drag on the index, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd fell as much as 0.6 percent to its lowest in over a week.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand shares were little changed, with the S&P/NZX 50 index dipping 0.1 percent or 11.84 points to 9,334.12.

New Zealand posted its largest monthly trade deficit on record in August as exports failed to keep up with a surge in key imports, official data showed.

Utilities and health care stocks led the fall, with energy supplier Mercury NZ Ltd sliding 0.9 percent, while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd dipped 1 percent. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Shanima A. Editing by Eric Meijer)

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