July 3, 2019 / 2:01 AM / a year ago

Australian shares rise but bank stocks cap gains; NZ flat

* Woolworth’s rises more than 3% on spinoff plans

* Miners continue to reap strong iron ore prices

* NZ at second consecutive record high

By Ambar Warrick

July 3 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Wednesday, supported by consumer and commodity stocks, but heavyweight banking shares fell on fears of stricter lending policies.

The S&P/ASX 200 index added 0.3% or 20.70 points to 6,673.90 by 0150 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.1% on Tuesday.

Supermarket operator Woolworths Group Ltd was among the biggest boosts to the benchmark, firming more than 3% after it outlined plans to spin-off and list its drinks and hospitality businesses.

Woolworth’s is looking to focus on its core supermarket business, which has come under pressure from weak retail spending and heavy price competition.

Miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto, the two largest stocks in the ASX 200, continued to benefit from strong iron ore prices. The stocks added about 0.6% and 1.2%, respectively.

BHP scaled a more-than eight-year high, while Fortescue Metals Group, the world’s fourth-largest iron ore miner, added 1.6%.

Chinese iron ore prices have doubled in value this year amid supply concerns over Brazil’s Vale SA after outages at several of its projects. Vale is the world’s largest iron ore miner.

Newcrest Mining Ltd, Australia’s largest listed gold producer, firmed 1.7% after gold prices jumped overnight. Heightened risk aversion had pushed gold prices about 9% higher over the previous quarter, benefiting local gold players.

Bucking the trend, financial stocks, the largest sector in the ASX 200, dropped about 0.3% with major pressure coming from bank stocks.

The country’s big four banks extended losses in the range of 0.3% to 0.9% after the securities regulator outlined plans to make lenders carry out more thorough credit checks on potential borrowers.

The move could push up expenses for the big four.

The big four, barring Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, on Tuesday also resisted public pressure to pass on a central bank rate cut in full to customers, risking a rebuke from the government.

Energy stocks dropped 1.7%, tracking a decline in oil prices on worries of waning global demand.

Woodside Petroleum, the largest listed oil and gas producer in the country, dropped 1.7%.

New Zealand stocks inched slightly higher to a second consecutive record high, although gains appeared to be showing some signs of slowing down.

The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.05% or 5.42 points to 10,537.36.

Electricity retailer Meridian Energy fell 0.6%, while a2 Milk Co rose 0.8%.

Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill

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