* Financials fall for 5th straight session
* CBA halts wealth, mortgage demerger plans
* Mining stocks gain for 3rd day (Updates to close)
March 14 (Reuters) - Mining and energy stocks pushed Australian shares higher on Thursday, while financials capped gains as regulatory uncertainty around mortgage broking businesses sent shivers across the sector.
The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 0.3 percent, or 18.4 points, to 6,179.60, snapping four days of losses. The benchmark was down 0.2 percent on Wednesday.
Extending losses for a fifth straight session, financial stocks came under the political spotlight this week after the government said they would reverse a recommendation on broker commissions made by a misconduct inquiry.
The decision casts doubt over the mortgage-broking business model, with the Labor opposition vowing to cap most broker commissions and ban certain others to remove conflicts of interest.
Amid this political scrutiny, Australia’s largest lender, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said on Thursday it had halted preparations for the planned demerger of its wealth management and mortgage broking businesses.
CBA shares declined 0.2 percent, while the rest of the “Big Four” banks lost between 0.2 percent and 0.7 percent.
The financials index declined as much 0.6 percent during the day, but pared losses at the close to end 0.1 percent down.
Meanwhile, mining stocks advanced 0.8 percent, gaining for a third consecutive day, as iron ore futures in China climbed to the week’s highest on Thursday.
Mining major Rio Tinto Ltd added 1 percent, while iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group Ltd gained 0.5 percent.
Index heavyweight BHP Group Ltd rose 0.8 percent. The global miner has stepped up exploration drilling for gas off Trinidad and Tobago which could supply the country’s Atlantic LNG plant in the 2020s, a senior executive said.
Gold miners advanced as prices held to a two-week high, with Evolution Mining Ltd rising 1.6 percent and Northern Star Resources Ltd gaining 1 percent.
Energy stocks rose 1.4 percent buoyed by a rise in oil prices due to ongoing OPEC supply cuts and U.S. sanctions against Venezuela and Iran.
Oil & gas explorers Woodside Petroleum Ltd and Oil Search Ltd gained 1.4 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed up 0.51 percent, or 47.81 points, to 9,435.50.
Dairy products maker a2 Milk Company Ltd was 0.4 percent up, while Auckland International Airport added 1 percent. (Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)