October 3, 2018 / 2:53 AM / in 18 days

Australian shares supported by resource stocks, financials; NZ down

* Rising gold and metal prices benefit resource stocks

* Financials have first rise since commission report issues

* Shares of Freedom Insurance dive on restructuring news

By Nikhil Nainan

Oct 3 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged up on Wednesday, as higher metal and gold prices lifted resource-related stocks while financials, after falling the first two days following a tough interim Royal Commission report on the sector, advanced.

At 0200 GMT, the S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.3 percent to 6,146. The benchmark fell 0.8 percent on Tuesday.

Miners found support from firmer overnight metal prices, negating some losses in prices in early Asian trade on Wednesday.

Global miners BHP and Rio Tinto gained as much as 1.3 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

The gold sub-index topped 3 percent, as prices of the metal extended gains from Tuesday’s highest level in more than a week, as risk-averse investors sought safe-haven bids.

St Barbara was the top gainer, surging nearly 8 percent to its highest in over one week. Evolution Mining Ltd and Newcrest Mining Ltd added 3.8 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.

On Monday and Tuesday - the first full trading days after the commission’s scathing interim findings on the financial sector - financial shares dragged down the benchmark.

Early Wednesday, financials gave a small boost, with their subindex rising 0.3 percent.

Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets and Stockbroking, said the Royal Commission process “has many months to play out, it’s unlikely we will see significant recommendations before the middle of next year.”

He said prices of financial shares should remain in “slightly positive territory” on Wednesday as they have already adjusted to reflect risks.

Shares of National Australia Bank were marginally in the red, while those of Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose 0.7 percent.

In the wake of the inquiry’s interim findings, Freedom Insurance Group on Tuesday said it would slash its workforce by more than half and stop the sale of direct insurance. It also announced the departure of its chief executive and chief financial officer.

Freedom shares plummeted 29 percent on Wednesday before paring some of the loss.

“Markets are concerned about outlook for its business, and see some risk that their business model might be wiped out,” said McCarthy.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 0.3 percent to 9,296.27.

Index heavyweight a2 Milk Company was the biggest drag, down 2.6 percent, while Fletcher Building dropped 1.5 percent.

Steel & Tube Holdings Ltd, up 15.7 percent, rebuffed a takeover offer from Fletcher, saying it significantly undervalued the company and would take time to clear regulatory hurdles.

For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan,additional reporting by Shanima A in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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