(Updates to close)
Oct 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed higher on Tuesday, backed by financials and mining shares which were buoyed by higher commodity prices.
The S&P/ASX 200 index snapped four sessions of losses to close up 0.4 percent, or 22.12 points, at 5,410.8.
Gold miners, aided by higher gold prices, were the top gainers in the materials sector, with Newcrest Mining Ltd and St Barbara Resources Ltd closing about 3 percent higher.
The 'Big Four' Australian banks rose in a range of 0.3 percent to 0.8 percent. Investment manager Challenger Ltd rose 6.2 percent to finish as the second-best performer on the index.
Possible merger talks between Australian gambling companies Tatts Group Limited and Tabcorp Holdings Ltd, to create a A$9.34 billion($7.08 billion) industry giant kept market sentiment afloat.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slid 1.3 percent, or 93.28 points, to 6,973.09, its lowest since July 6, led by utilities, healthcare and consumer cyclicals.
Retirement village operator Summerset Group Holdings Ltd was the top percentage loser, falling 3.7 percent to its lowest in two months, followed by Genesis Energy Ltd . which shed 3.4 percent. ($1 = 1.3187 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Geo Tharappel in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric Meijer)