September 24, 2018 / 6:43 AM / 3 months ago

Australian shares end lower as materials, financials falter; a2 Milk drags NZ

* Materials fall as copper prices slip

* Financials hit by latest round of inquiry into sector

* a2 Milk pushes NZ lower (Updates to close)

Sept 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged down on Monday, as lower commodities prices hit materials stocks while financials slipped on fresh revelations of wrongdoing in a high-profile probe into the sector.

The S&P/ASX 200 index eased 0.1 percent or 7.70 points to 6,186.90 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose 0.4 percent on Friday.

Mining stocks led a selloff in the materials sector as benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange slipped 1 percent.

Global miner Rio Tinto Ltd declined about 1.2 percent and was among the biggest drags on the benchmark, while South32 Ltd fell 1.3 percent.

Banks and insurers were also in the red, hurt by damaging testimony of a quasi-judicial inquiry, which has already exposed widespread wrongdoing in the financial sector.

Some of the largest insurers in Australia, including the local units of multinationals, may have broken laws - some of which carry criminal penalties - the inquiry heard last week.

Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia dropped 0.5 percent to a one-week low, while Suncorp Group Ltd slipped 0.6 percent.

The benchmark was also weighed by a 1.4 percent fall in index heavyweight CSL Ltd. The drugmaker has rallied about 44 percent since the beginning of the year but has been falling lately on profit taking.

Australia-listed shares of a2 Milk Company Ltd slumped 3.8 percent to a two-week low, after the dairy firm’s chief executive, Jayne Hrdlicka, sold her entire stake in the company, a disclosure notice issued by the Australian and New Zealand stock exchanges showed.

In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.4 percent or 38.46 points to finish at 9,337.51.

The benchmark was dragged mainly by a2 Milk which fell 5.4 percent to a two-week low. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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