June 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares traded nearly flat on Wednesday after gains in mining and gold stocks helped pare earlier losses, with investors assessing the central bank's hawkish stance on inflation as it held interest rates steady.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.03% to 7,780.80 by 00:07 GMT. The benchmark closed 1.01% higher in the previous session.

Although the Reserve Bank of Australia kept rates at a 12-year high of 4.35% for a fifth straight meeting on Tuesday, it flagged upside risks to inflation in the region.

The RBA emphasised the need to be vigilant on inflation, as it remained well above the bank's target band at 3.6%. Markets are not fully pricing in a rate cut until April or May 2025.

On Wednesday, mining stocks rose 0.2%, tracking copper and iron prices higher.

Mining giants BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue were up between 0.1% and 1.9%.

Domestic gold stocks rose 0.9%, tracking an uptick in bullion prices.

Gold miners Evolution Mining and Northern Star Resources gained 1.7% and 1.4%, respectively.

Bucking the trend, interest-rate sensitive financials edged down 0.1%.

The "Big Four" banks fell between 0.2% and 0.4%.

QBE Insurance Group fell around 0.5%, after the insurance firm flagged closure of its struggling North America middle-market segment.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.5% to 11,707.58. Market participants in the region now await the country's first-quarter gross domestic data due later this week.

(Reporting by Shivangi Lahiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)