June 17 (Reuters) - Australian shares drifted in a narrow range on Monday as market participants exercised caution ahead of a central bank policy decision due later this week.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell about 0.2% in early trade before recovering to trade almost flat. It was 0.01% higher at 7,725.20 as of 0043 GMT, after closing 0.3% lower on Friday.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is expected to hold its key policy rate for a fifth consecutive meeting on Tuesday over persistent price pressures, according to all economists polled by Reuters.

Futures imply a 63% probability the central bank will ease rates by December, as at the end of last week.

Mining stocks eased 0.1%, tracking weakness in iron ore and copper prices.

BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue were down 0.2%, 0.03% and 0.7% respectively.

Energy stocks fell 0.7% as oil prices slipped after a survey on Friday showed weaker U.S. consumer demand and as traders awaited the release of key economic data from China, the world's biggest crude importer.

Woodside Energy fell about 0.3%, while smaller rival Santos declined around 0.5%.

Gold stocks, however, rose 1.1%, after bullion prices posted their first weekly gain in four last week.

Evolution Mining and Northern Star Resources advanced 0.8% and 0.1%, respectively.

Financials struggled for direction in early trade. Three of the "Big Four" banks fell between 0.1% and 0.4%, while Westpac Banking Corp rose about 0.1%.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.5% to 11,810.73, with investors awaiting first-quarter gross domestic product data due later this week for further direction. (Reporting by Shivangi Lahiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)