April 28, 2017 / 3:50 AM / 4 months ago

Lower commodity prices pare Aussie stock gains; NZ hits 7-mnth high

April 28 (Reuters) - Australian markets were dragged lower by miners on Friday, after dips in overnight commodity prices pared previous sessions' gains while New Zealand stocks surged to a seven-month high, led by industrial and utility shares.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 24.841 points or 0.41 percent to 5,897 by 0254 GMT. The metals index fell to its lowest in four months, pressured by falls among giants such as BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Newcrest Mining .

Financials rose marginally, propped up mostly by insurance companies. Three of the "Big Four" banking stocks fell ahead of earnings next week.

"For banks, I think dividends will be a big focus next week. Cash earnings next week are likely to be constrained, and dividends are expected to be steady," said Ben Le Brun, market analyst at Optionsxpress.

He expects the net interest margins to come under pressure since the Reserve Bank of Australia interest rates are quite low. He said he is also watching bad and doubtful debts cycle closely, although cash earnings will also be an important focal point.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Corp and National Australia Bank report results next week.

Among commodities stocks, the gold index fell 3.34 percent, with Northern Star Resources, Alacer Gold Corp , Evolution Mining losing the most.

Oil majors Woodside Petroleum, Beach Energy Ltd and Oil Search fell after prices took off towards a second straight weekly loss.

Qantas Airways fell nearly 1 percent after it said Thursday it would axe its Melbourne-Dubai-London flights operated in partnership with Emirates. Rival Virgin Australia Holdings was flat.

In overnight commodities trade, copper and zinc fell on Thursday after concerns about demand from China and tax cuts in the U.S. rattled nerves.

Some bleeding was contained by higher China iron prices - the most traded iron-ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange rose on Friday, in line with China steel prices which rose for a third straight session overnight.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.235 percent or 17.3 points to 7,371.91, breaching the six-month high it had recorded over the last two sessions, to hit its highest since September 12.

Gains were led by transport and industrial stocks - Auckland International Airport recorded its biggest percentage gain in six weeks, while supply chain logistics company Mainfreight Ltd rose 1.2 percent.

For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Aparajita Saxena, Additional reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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