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Australia shares end flat as oil prices weigh on energy stocks

* Travel stocks rise on open-border system between Australia-NZ

* Lithium miner Orocobre among top gainers on Galaxy buyout

* Energy stocks slip on weaker oil prices amid surging cases (Updates to close)

April 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed flat on Monday as losses among energy and technology sectors erased an early mining boost, while tourism-related stocks found some respite as a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand kicked off.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed flat at 7,065.6.

Energy stocks slipped 1.4% as oil prices slumped amid a surge in COVID-19 infections in India and other countries. Woodside Petroleum fell nearly 2% while Santos lost 1.3%.

Technology stocks shed 0.8%, with buy-now-pay-later heavyweight Afterpay losing nearly 1%.

The mining index rose 0.8% as ironore and copper prices held firm. Rio Tinto gained 1.7% while Fortescue Metals Group added 1.8%.

Orocobre soared 5.7% after the lithium miner said it was buying smaller domestic peer Galaxy Resources for $1.4 billion to create the world’s fifth-most valuable producer of the key raw material for electric vehicle batteries.

Meanwhile, hundreds of passengers from Australia began arriving in New Zealand airports on Monday, as open-border system between the countries allows Australia residents to fly across Tasman Sea without having to quarantine.

Travel stocks edged higher, with Helloworld Travel advancing 2.4% and Sydney Airport Holdings rising 0.5%.

“The travel industry took a hit last year due to the pandemic and the ones that survived now started to look of good value to most people,” FP Markets - APAC Chief Executive Officer Nick Twidale said.

“But for the travel sector to really pick up and be performing anywhere near like last year, we need the rest of the world to come out of the pandemic, with better vaccine rollouts,” he added.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.7% at 12,767.83, with Auckland Airport gaining the most after rising 4.7%. (Reporting by Vasudha Kaukuntla in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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