June 28, 2018 / 7:01 AM / 5 months ago

Australian shares edge up on banks, materials; NZ little changed

* Banks account for most of the gains

* Materials rise on higher iron ore, copper prices

* New Zealand treads water (Updates to close)

June 28 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged higher on Thursday, snapping four straight sessions of fall, on the back of gains in banks, while a recovery in commodity prices spurred demand for materials.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.3 percent, or 19.5 points, higher at 6,215.4, after shedding 1.70 points on Wednesday.

Financials closed higher after a weak start and led the gains on the benchmark index.

Financials rose because the Australian market is largely yield- and dividend-driven, said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

Investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd was among the biggest boosts with a jump of 3.7 percent, while the country’s “Big Four” climbed between 0.6 percent and 0.9 percent.

BHP, the world’s biggest miner, rose 1.8 percent and dominated the gains on the benchmark, bolstered by a recovery in copper prices and rise in iron ore futures.

Other blue chips in the sector also firmed, with Rio Tinto Ltd climbing 1.2 percent, while Newcrest Mining Ltd strengthened 1.9 percent to a more than six-week high, boosted by higher gold prices.

Shares of oil-focused firms also climbed, helped by overnight gains in Brent prices.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd rose 1.8 percent to a three-year high, while Origin Energy Ltd climbed 1.3 percent.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ticked up 2.27 points to 8,998.79.

Utilities led the gains, with Contact Energy Ltd rising 1.2 percent, while Spark New Zealand Ltd firmed 0.5 percent. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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