July 13, 2018 / 6:58 AM / 8 months ago

Australian shares struggle to advance; NZ rises

* Health care index hits a record high

* Financials thwart a gain for the benchmark

* NZ gains on utilities, consumer discretionary stocks (Updates to close)

July 13 (Reuters) - Australian shares barely moved on Friday, as strong gains in health care stocks were countered by weakness in banks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index inched up 0.10 points to 6,268.4 at the close of trade. The benchmark jumped 0.9 percent on Thursday.

The index of health care stocks jumped 1.5 percent to a record high. The defensive sector has significant exports to the U.S., and benefits from weakness in the local currency.

Index heavyweight CSL Ltd climbed 2 percent to its highest ever and was the biggest boost to the benchmark.

Bionic-ear maker Cochlear Ltd rose 3.2 percent and also closed at a record high, while Australia-listed shares of Resmed Inc firmed 0.8 percent.

But financials stocks fell, countering market gains from health care shares.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the biggest lender, slipped 0.5 percent and was the biggest drag. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd dropped 0.7 percent.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index climbed 0.4 percent or 38.72 points to finish the session at 9,024.19. The benchmark had a weekly loss of 0.7 percent, its biggest since April.

Utilities and consumer discretionary stocks led the upward charge on Friday, with Infratil Ltd jumping 2 percent on Friday. Skycity Entertainment Group Ltd rose 1.5 percent. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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