* U.S. CPI data in focus

* RBNZ holds cash rate at 5.50%

* AXJO hits three consecutive sessions of gains

April 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended higher on Wednesday, buoyed by mining and healthcare stocks, while stocks in New Zealand held gains after the country's central bank kept the cash rate unchanged for the sixth consecutive time.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.3% higher at 7,848.500 points, its third straight session of gains.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended up 0.5% at 11,971.9200 points.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) played a straight bat to hold onto its cash rate of 5.50% and indicated interest rates need to stay high for longer to tame inflation.

"We retain a view that the economy (New Zealand) is likely to continue to underperform, guidance will likely move in a more dovish direction over coming months, and the RBNZ can commence an easing cycle around August," said Andrew Ticehurst, a senior economist at Nomura, said in a client note.

Globally, traders keenly await the U.S. inflationary print for March, due later in the day, which may give a better idea of when the Federal Reserve might begin cutting rates.

"Equity markets will likely be sensitive to any outward shift in rate cut expectations. As such, U.S. inflation data will be key," Tim Waterer, chief market analyst at KCM Trade, said.

In Australia, mining stocks rose 0.9% in tandem with a jump in iron ore prices.

Mining bellwether Rio Tinto surged 1.9%, its third consecutive sessions of gains, while BHP Group and Fortescue ended 0.7% and 1.9% higher.

Healthcare stocks jumped 1%, with heavyweight CSL rising 1.2%.

In contrast, financials shed 0.4%, with two of the so-called "Big Four" banks losing between 0.1% and 0.8%. Westpac and National Australia Bank traded flat.

Energy firms inched 0.4% lower, with index heavyweight Woodside losing 0.9%, while smaller rival Santos rose 0.7%.

(Reporting by Rajasik Mukherjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Sonia Cheema)