* ASX 200 flat as investors wary on geopolitical risks
* Banks weak (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
By Thuy Ong and Gyles Beckford
SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, July 22 (Reuters) - Australian shares were mostly flat on Tuesday, hovering near six-year highs, as investors remained cautious over the escalating crises in Gaza and Ukraine, but gains in oil, gold and other metals helped to contain broader losses.
Investors were also awaiting a speech from Reserve Bank of Australia’s Govenor Glenn Stevens later in the day for clues on policy.
U.S. stocks slipped overnight as violence escalated in the Gaza Strip and fighting flared in Ukraine, though the three major indexes ended well off their lows, a sign that some appetite for riskier assets remained.
The financial sector pulled the Australian market lower, with top lender the Commonwealth Bank of Australia slipping 0.1 percent, while mid-tier bank Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Ltd dipped 0.4 percent.
The S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 1.4 points to 5,541.3 by 0202 GMT. The benchmark added 0.2 percent on Monday to close at six-year highs.
“We’re just consolidating somewhat and sitting tight in the midst of the geopolitical tensions,” said Kara Ordway, market maker and trader at City Index in Sydney, adding that if the market were to move beyond six-year highs, global markets would be the catalyst.
The benchmark index has been underpinned by signs that China, Australia’s largest export market, is regaining momentum.
Broader losses were constrained as zinc and aluminium prices hit their highest in more than a year as investors sought exposure to commodities with improved fundamentals.
In the materials space, global miner BHP Billiton Ltd added 0.7 percent, while Alumina Ltd jumped 2.3 percent. Western Areas Ltd and world no.4 iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group Ltd jumped 4.6 percent and 1.2 percent respectively.
Macquarie Atlas Roads Group added 0.9 percent after saying its weighted average toll revenue for June quarter increased 4.2 percent on the prior corresponding period.
Buru Energy Ltd dropped 3.4 percent after the company failed to secure backing from an indigenous group to explore for shale gas using “fracking” methods in Western Australia.
Oil Search Ltd climbed 1 percent after saying its revenue for the quarter was $210 million, 20 percent higher than the third quarter.
New Zealand stocks were marginally lower with the benchmark NZX-50 index down 3.8 points or 0.1 percent to 5123.10, in a largely lacklustre market.
The bigger price moves were among the smaller stocks, including A2 Milk Ltd, which rose 8.2 percent to NZ$0.65 after it said its infant formula had been registered by Chinese authorities allowing it to resume shipments there.
Several retail stocks which had cut earnings forecasts over the past month because of a mild start to the winter perked up amid a cold snap, with the Warehouse up 2.3 percent to NZ$3.10 and Hallenstein Glasson up 1.6 percent to NZ$3.10.
Editing by Kim Coghill