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Australia bank shares fall ahead of inquiry report; NZ stocks flat

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose fractionally on Wednesday as gains in materials and energy stocks on higher oil and commodity prices offset losses for banks as release of an inquiry's interim report on the sector nears.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.1 per cent or 6.4 points to end at 6,192.3 . On Tuesday, the benchmark slipped one point.

Dalian iron ore jumped 1.1 per cent on Wednesday, boosting buying interest in materials stocks, accounting for most of Wednesday's gains on the benchmark.

The metals and mining index climbed 1 per cent to its highest since Aug 10.

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Both BHP and Rio Tinto Ltd firmed 1.2 per cent, taking them to two-month highs.

Energy stocks also advanced, benefiting from a rally in oil prices. Brent crude futures were flat on Wednesday after gaining nearly 1 per cent in the previous session.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd, the biggest listed oil and gas explorer, rose 1.5 per cent to a near-four year high.

However, financials fell 0.6, erasing most of the benchmark's gain.

An interim report of the powerful Royal Commission inquiry into Australia's banking and financial services sector is due no later than Sept 30.

Investors suspect the Royal Commission could hit the financial sector hard, which is affecting share movement before its release, said Greg McKenna, an independent financial analyst in Australia.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the biggest lender, fell 0.9 per cent and was the major top drag on the index, while National Australia Bank Ltd slipped 0.5 per cent.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged 3.89 points higher to finish the session at 9,349.85.

Gains were dominated by Fletcher Building Ltd which rose 2.2 per cent to a near four-week high.

REUTERS