Feb 26 (Reuters) - Australian shares climbed higher on Monday, lifted by financials and gold miners, while traders braced for key local inflation data due later this week to assess expectations regarding interest rates.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.4% at 7,673.7, as of 0019 GMT.

Gold stocks gained 2% owing to an increased demand for safe-haven bullion amid esclating geopolitical tensions in the Middle East. Shares of Besra Gold and Evolution Mining rose 0.6% and 1.4%, respectively.

The rate-sensitive financial sub-index jumped 0.7%, driven by a nearly 1% gain in Commonwealth Bank of Australia .

Investor focus has shifted to the country's January inflation print, which is scheduled for release on Wednesday. The data will determine if the Reserve Bank of Australia will continue to keep its rates on hold next month.

Meanwhile, U.S. traders are betting on a Federal Reserve rate cut in June, paring back expectations of the earliest cut in March.

Back in Sydney, the mining sub-index gained 0.4%, with nickel stocks being the main gainers.

Lynas Rare Earths, the world's largest rare-earths supplier outside China, recorded a forecast-beating half-year profit, sending its shares up 4%.

Shares of Alumina rose 7% after the company received a buyout bid from U.S. aluminium producer Alcoa Corp , valuing the company at $2.2 billion in an all-stock offer.

Bucking the trend, energy stocks fell nearly 2%, hitting their lowest level since Dec. 14 amid tepid oil prices.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dipped 0.2% to 11,698.04.

The country's central bank is expected to hold its cash rate at a 15-year high of 5.50% on Wednesday, with the first rate cut expected in November, a Reuters poll showed.

(Reporting by Poonam Behura in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Rajasik Mukherjee; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)