December 31, 2018 / 5:54 AM / 6 months ago

Australia shares end flat in worst year since 2011; NZ rises

* Aussie benchmark closes flat on last trading session of 2018

* Benchmark sheds 6.9 pct, biggest annual drop since 2011 (Updates to close)

Dec 31 (Reuters) - Australian shares finished flat on Monday, capping their worst year since 2011, as gains in miners on higher commodities prices were offset by losses in industrials and consumer stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged 0.1 percent lower, or 7.9 points, to 5,646.40 in a shortened last trading session of the year.

“The local market opened higher on the U.S.-China trade deal optimism and China stimulus hopes before global transition smashed it back to flat territory on the last day of the year,” said Mathan Somasundaram, a Blue Ocean Equities market portfolio strategist.

The benchmark lost 6.9 percent over the course of 2018, its biggest annual drop in seven years as the explosive findings of a powerful inquiry into Australia’s financial sector wiped out A$40 billion from the market value of the country’s four largest banks and AMP, while the Sino-U.S. trade war rattled investors.

Stocks in the materials sector dominated gains on the benchmark on Monday, as a jump in copper prices bolstered demand for mining companies.

The metals and mining index rose 0.6 percent, with BHP Group firming 0.8 percent while Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 0.5 percent.

The financials index trimmed some gains earlier in the session to close 0.3 percent higher.

The sub-index has tumbled nearly 15 percent in 2018, its biggest since the global financial crisis in 2008 as widespread revelations of misconduct hit some of the nation’s largest financial institutions.

The country’s “Big Four” lenders were up in a range between 0.5 percent and 0.6 percent.

Meanwhile, industrials and consumer non-cyclicals fell, putting pressure on the benchmark. Benchmark heavyweight Woolworths Group Ltd fell 0.4 percent, while Transurban Group dropped 0.9 percent.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.3 percent higher at 8,811.27. The country’s benchmark gained about 5 percent this year, in contrast to its neighbour.

Top constituents a2 Milk Company and Fletcher Building added 2 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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