April 17 (Reuters) - Australian shares were little changed on Wednesday as losses in heavyweight miners countered gains in financial and gold stocks, while investors exercised caution amid signs that U.S. central bank policymakers are in no hurry to lower interest rates.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was almost flat at 7,618.6 as of 0022 GMT. The benchmark fell 1.8% on Tuesday in its worst session since March 11.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said on Tuesday that a string of disappointing data will likely cause the central bank to take longer than expected to become confident that inflation is falling.

Back in Sydney, investors will be looking for clues on the Reserve Bank of Australia's future monetary policy trajectory from March jobs data due on Thursday.

Among sectors, mining retreated 0.3% after underlying iron ore prices dropped overnight.

Mining giant Rio Tinto was trading down 0.8% after it reported a fall in first-quarter iron ore shipments.

BHP Group and Fortescue dropped 0.6% and 0.8%, respectively.

Banks were up 0.5% after a five-day slide, buoyed by hopes of solid earnings as the quarterly reporting season kicks off this week.

Gold stocks rose 1.5% and were among major gainers on the benchmark index, after bullion prices closed steady overnight.

Evolution Mining gained 5.4% after reporting solid production results, while Northern Star Resources was up 0.5%.

Energy stocks rose 0.2%. Oil prices settled flat overnight as global economic woes countered rising geopolitical tensions in the Middle East.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was down 0.1% at 11,749.3.

Data released by Statistics New Zealand showed that the consumer price index rose 0.6% in the first quarter, in line with forecasts. (Reporting by Megha Rani in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)