Major miners, energy firms drag Australia shares lower; NZ jumps

* BHP, RIO, Fortescue dive between 5.7% and 6.4%

* ASX falls for fourth straight session

* NZX 50 at over 6-month high (Updates to close)

Aug 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended lower for a fourth straight session on Thursday, dragged by miners and energy firms that fell sharply on weaker commodity prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.5% to close at 7,464.6 points, its longest losing streak since October 2020. The index fell as much as 1% earlier in the session.

Aussie miners sank 4.3%, with Rio Tinto, BHP Group and Fortescue Metals losing between 5.7% and 6.4%.

Lithium miners Mineral Resources and IGO Ltd shed 6.6% and 5.8%, respectively, also among the top losers on the benchmark.

Energy stocks slipped 2.7% as oil prices took a knock from rising COVID-19 cases worldwide and a surprise build in U.S. gasoline stocks.

Woodside Petroleum fell 3.4%, the most in its sector, followed by Whitehaven Coal that lost 3.1%.

Aussie financials were down 0.1%, with three of the ‘Big Four’ lenders finishing in the red.

In the broader market, Asian stocks slumped to their lowest levels this year following an overnight slide in Wall Street’s main indexes.

Australia’s jobs data released on Thursday showed a surprise fall in unemployment rates as coronavirus lockdowns limited people’s ability to look for work.

Meanwhile, Australian authorities began doling out emergency COVID-19 vaccine supplies as virus cases logged fresh peaks.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index jumped 1.9% to finish the session at 12,956.97 points, its highest since Feb. 10, boosted by a 12.4% rise in telecom infrastructure provider Chorus Ltd.

The company said earlier on Thursday that New Zealand’s Commerce Commission had proposed an initial regulated asset base of NZ$5.427 billion for Chorus’ regulated fibre business. (Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)