September 17, 2018 / 6:48 AM / in a month

Aussie bank shares' gains offset slump in aged-care providers, NZ flat

* Banks push Aussie shares higher

* Health care hammered by the news of public inquiry

* Lower commodity prices drive weakness in materials (Updates to close)

By Aditya Soni

Sept 17 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Monday as gains in financials outweighed a sharp fall in health care stocks which were hammered by the news of a public inquiry into the aged-care system.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 percent or 19.70 points to 6,185.00 at the close of trade. The benchmark firmed 0.6 percent on Friday.

Banks dominated the gains on Monday, with the financials index climbing 0.6 percent.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd firmed 0.9 percent and was among top supporters to the benchmark, while National Australia Bank Ltd (NAB) firmed 0.8 percent.

NAB announced on Monday the departure of its top consumer banking executive in the wake of a Royal Commission enquiry into the financial services sector that found widespread malpractice, including debiting life insurance premiums from dead people’s accounts.

News that Australia will open a similar Royal Commission inquiry into the aged-care sector put pressure on the shares of aged-care service providers. The enquiry follows a spike in reports of abuse at aged-care homes.

Regis Healthcare Ltd plunged 17.1 percent to a record low, while Estia Health Ltd slumped 18.6 percent to its lowest since December 2016.

The wider health care index dipped 0.9 percent. Drugmaker CSL Ltd dropped 1.1 percent and was the top drag on the benchmark.

Materials also fell, hurt by a fall in iron ore futures and copper prices.

Miner BHP dipped 0.7 percent, while rival Rio Tinto Ltd dropped 0.2 percent.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.770 points to finish the session at 9,271.53.

Consumer staples rose, with a2 Milk Company Ltd rising 5 percent to its highest since Sept. 6, offsetting the health care sector’s losses.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd dropped 0.5 percent.

Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru Editing by Eric Meijer

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