June 27, 2018 / 3:11 AM / 3 months ago

Australian shares tread water; NZ stocks move up

* Materials and energy stocks up on higher commodity, oil prices

* But banks and industrials drop, blocking benchmark gains

* NZ index lifted by consumer staples

By Aditya Soni

June 27 (Reuters) - Australian shares barely moved on Wednesday as gains in energy and materials stocks were offset by a weakness in banks and industrials.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ticked down 1.30 points to 6,196.30 at 0308 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.2 percent on Tuesday.

Materials stocks, especially miners, had the biggest gains, underpinned by improving copper and iron ore prices.

Commodities prices have been hit by trade tensions as investors grow increasingly nervous about the potentially damaging impact on economic growth.

BHP rose 1.7 percent, the benchmark’s biggest boost, while its spin-off South32 Ltd climbed 1.3 percent.

Energy stocks rose 1.2 percent to a more than three-year high as crude oil prices advanced.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd climbed 1.5 percent, pushing the benchmark up, while Oil Search Ltd strengthened 2.2 percent to its highest since November 2014.

Chief Executive Peter Coleman said on Tuesday Woodside will soon decide whether to keep investing in Sempra Energy’s Port Arthur liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project in Texas.

He said the project’s ability to provide Woodside with an adequate return is “very challenged”.

Higher oil prices put pressure on shares of Qantas Airways Ltd , which dropped 2.1 percent to near a four-week low.

Other industrial sector stocks also declined. Rail operator Aurizon Holdings declined 4.2 percent to a near two-week low.

Aurizon said its fiscal-year 2019 will be challenged due to factors including cessation of Cliffs iron ore mine operations and cessation of the Mt Gibson iron ore contract with a combined earnings before interest and tax impact of about A$50 million ($36.84 million).

Financials also declined, sliding 0. 2 percent after rising for seven out of the previous eight sessions.

National Australia Bank Ltd dipped 0.6 percent, while Westpac Banking Corp dropped 0.5 percent to its lowest since June 20.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 percent or 31.13 points to 9,020.93.

Consumer staples led gainers after losing 2.6 percent in the past three days.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd rose 1.6 percent and Synlait Milk Ltd firmed 3.7 percent to a record high.

Air New Zealand Ltd rose 1.8 percent. On Wednesday, it said a penalty of A$15 million imposed by the Australian Federal Court on cartel charges will not impact its 2018 earnings before taxation guidance. ($1 = 1.3574 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Mensholong Lepcha; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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