VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis met on Monday with Australian Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s former economy minister who has returned to Rome after the firing of an Italian cardinal whom Pell had accused of obstructing financial reform.

Pell was cleared earlier this year of sexual abuse charges in Australia after spending 13 months in prison, and it remains unclear whether he will take up another role in the Vatican.

The Vatican announced the meeting between Pell and Pope Francis in a statement on the pope’s daily private audiences, but gave no details. “It went very well,” Pell told reporters in front of his residence just outside the Vatican walls.

Pell returned to Rome on Sept. 30, just days after the pope fired Pell’s nemesis, Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was accused of embezzlement and nepotism. Becciu has denied all wrongdoing.

While Becciu was number two in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and Pell was economy minister, the two had a very stormy relationship.

Becciu told reporters the day after he was sacked about a meeting between Pell, the pope and Becciu where Pell told Becciu, “You are dishonest”, and Becciu replied: “How dare you!”

After Becciu was sacked, Pell said: “The Holy Father was elected to clean up Vatican finances. He plays a long game and is to be thanked and congratulated on recent developments.”

Pell said he hoped the “cleaning of the stables” would continue.

Becciu’s lawyer has denied Italian media reports that his client sent money to Australia to help Pell’s “enemies” while he was facing the sexual abuse charges.

Through his lawyer, the Australian man who accused Pell of sexually abusing him two decades ago denied Italian reports speculating that he may have been bribed to testify.

Pell’s Australian lawyer, Robert Richter, called for an

By Swati Pandey

SYDNEY, Oct 9 (Reuters)Australia’s financial system has the strength to withstand the nation’s large economic contraction and support the recovery even though risks are “elevated”, the country’s central bank said on Friday.

Risks to the financial system would be exacerbated by a weaker-than-expected economic recovery, stemming from further setbacks on the coronavirus-related health front or international political tensions, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) said in its biannual Financial Stability Review.

Low levels of interest rates, loan repayment deferrals and a massive government stimulus have so far supported the economy, helping avoid defaults and business failures.

The RBA is widely expected to further lower its cash rate to 0.1% from a record low 0.25% at its November policy meeting. AU/INT

Earlier this week, Australia’s conservative government announced a larger-than-expected fiscal stimulus, including a new wage subsidy scheme, to support the country’s virus-ravaged economy.

Even so, the RBA expects business failures to rise and loan impairments to increase going forward.

“With unemployment having increased and many employees working reduced hours, the number of households experiencing financial stress has increased and will increase further,” the report said.

The potential for mortgage losses for lenders is also higher if distressed home sales increase.

“While credit is available at very low interest rates, reduced housing demand from very low immigration and the rise in unemployment contribute to the risk of further falls in housing prices,” the RBA added.

Over the first six months of 2020, the Australian economy contracted by over 7% under the weight of strict mobility restrictions to suppress COVID-19.

The unemployment rate has since risen from around 5% pre-COVID to near 7% with economists predicting it would jump to 10% in coming months.

The RBA was still confident the country’s banks could weather the storm.

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian casino billionaire James Packer on Tuesday acknowledged sending threatening emails in 2015 to an unnamed person with whom he was working on taking Crown Resorts Ltd

private while a director at the company he created.

During questioning by a government inquiry, Packer blamed his “medical state” for the threats which he agreed were “shameful” and “disgraceful”. Packer, who confirmed on Tuesday that he has bipolar disorder after revealing previously he had mental health problems, said he should have told shareholders about his personal issues instead of keeping them secret.

“I think my medical state is what it reflected most on,” Packer said of the emails to the person. Packer, who quit the Crown board weeks later without disclosing medical issues, no longer works at the company but retains 37% of Crown, a stake worth A$2.2 billion ($1.57 billion).

One of Australia’s wealthiest people, Packer shuns public attention beyond staged photo opportunities or prepared statements. Packer testified via videolink in a jacket and tie from an undisclosed location, reported by Australian media to be on board a yacht in the South Pacific.

The government inquiry comes as the New South Wales state casino regulator considers whether Crown should be allowed to proceed with plans to run a 75-floor, A$2.2 billion ($1.6 billion) casino tower in Sydney, just months before its scheduled opening.

The risk of the company losing its licence grew last year following media reports, denied by the company, that Crown hired tour operators linked to organised crime to bring wealthy foreign gamblers, largely from China.

Packer denied knowing that Crown staff set up informal offices in residential locations in Guangzhou, China, where advertising gambling is illegal, to avoid detection. In 2016, 16 Crown staff were jailed in China for violating anti-gambling laws. [D-REUTERSNEWS-T004/Ie4b85a305a2b11e79b7692983d739d5a]

“I believe

There’s a new member of the world’s mining elite with a friendly merger in Australia creating a top 10 gold producer in a move which could potentially act as a trigger for a wave of similar deals.

The $11.5 billion amalgamation of Norther Star Resources and Saracen Mineral Holdings has been expected since last year when the two became joint owners of the Fimiston mine on the outskirts of Kalgoorlie, Australia’s gold capital.

Also known as the Superpit, the mine has been in continuous production for more than 100 years and ranks as one of the biggest man-made holes on the earth’s surface and one of Australia’s biggest mines.

But it’s what happens next in the gold industry which will be closely watched by investors because the gold industry has been buzzing with merger talk since the price started to rise two years ago.

Rising Gold Price

From a low of $1178 an ounce in August, 2018, the gold price has risen by 62% to latest sales at $1911/oz, down on the peak of $2067/oz reached two months ago but trending up after a correction last month which pulled the price back to $1859/oz.

The upward price move, and forecasts that global economic and political uncertainty could see even higher prices next year, lies behind forecasts from gold industry leaders that a wave of consolidation could be on the way.

Last month the chief executive of Barrick Gold, Mark Bristow, told a mining conference that there was an industry-wide mismatch, with assets in the hands of too many managers.

Australia’s central bank kept monetary policy unchanged Tuesday, clearing the field for the government to unveil a fiscal blueprint designed to drive the economy’s recovery from a Covid-induced recession.

Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe kept both the key interest rate and three-year yield target unchanged at 0.25%, as expected. The labor market is a key focus for the bank, which is due to release fresh forecasts next month, he said.

“The Board views addressing the high rate of unemployment as an important national priority,” Lowe said in a statement. Policy settings will remain highly accommodative for as long as required and the bank “continues to consider how additional monetary easing could support jobs as the economy opens up further,” he said.

The RBA has been working in tandem with fiscal policy makers, pushing down the cost of borrowing to smooth the path for major spending programs. The government’s budget, due five hours after the rate decision, is expected to see a boost to infrastructure, the bringing forward of tax cuts and other measures to kick-start a recovery.

The RBA said labor market conditions have improved and the peak in the jobless rate could be lower than previously expected. Still, unemployment and underemployment were likely to remain high for an extended period.

The Australian dollar initially rose on the statement before falling back to be little changed at 71.94 U.S. cents at 3:31 p.m. in Sydney.

RBA said addressing high unemployment is a national priority

Economists expect the budget deficit will swell to A$220 billion ($158 billion), or 11.6% of gross domestic product, this fiscal year, and unemployment is forecast to rise to 8% by mid-2021 from the current 6.8%, according to the median estimate of a Bloomberg survey.

“Public sector balance sheets in Australia are in good shape, which allows for continued support, with the Australian Government budget to