China factory growth beats expectations

China’s factory activity expanded faster than expected in February as domestic and export demand picked up, adding to signs that the global economy is regaining momentum.

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Growth in both output and orders accelerated last month, according to official and private factory surveys, giving the Chinese government more room to focus on tackling financial risks to the economy as debt continues to rise.

“This is the 7th consecutive month that China’s official manufacturing PMI stayed within expansionary territory, suggesting that industrial activity remains buoyant,” said Zhou Hao, emerging markets economist at Commerzbank AG in Singapore.

Zhou said it was “very likely” that China’s central bank would raise short-term interest rates by a another 10 basis points in March – which would mark the third such move in as many months – as authorities grow more confident that the economy is on steadier footing.

China’s central bank has cautiously shifted its stance in recent months to a tightening bias after years of super-loose policy to stave off the risk of a hard landing for the world’s second-largest economy.

The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) released on Wednesday rose to a three-month high of 51.6 in February, compared with the previous month’s 51.3, and above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.

Analysts had expected a reading of 51.1 in February.

China’s industrial sector has benefited from a construction boom since the middle of last year that has spurred demand and prices for building materials from cement to steel, boosting sales and profits.

Output rose at a faster pace of 53.7, compared to 53.1 in January, while overall new order growth also picked up.

A private survey which focuses more on small and mid-sized firms also showed factory activity picked up more than expected last month.

The Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ index (PMI) rose to 51.7, up from 51.0 in January and beating analysts’ forecasts of 50.8.

A separate reading on the services sector showed growth remained robust in February.

The official non-manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) stood at 54.2 in February, down from 54.6 in January, but well above the 50-point mark.

Fears new homes being left empty as housing prices soar

CoreLogic senior research analyst Cameron Kusher says there are fears many new units are being left empty, contributing to the housing crisis.

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“There’s no hard and fast statistics on that, but if you go through Melbourne, and go through Brisbane in some of these areas you’re seeing a lot of new unit construction,” he said.

“You only have to go there at night time to see there is no furniture on the balcony, there’s very few lights on, so clearly a lot of these properties are being left vacant.”

Starr Properties agent, Douglas Driscoll said the number of those vacant properties could be in the hundreds of thousands.

“If you look at the census from 2011, it suggests there were 120,000 uninhabited properties across Sydney,” he said.

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“The advent of foreign investment only really kicked in, in 2012, [so] my rudimentary research suggests it could be as much as 200,000.”

That’s in Sydney alone according to Mr Driscoll, although there is no official statistical measurement.

“My evidence as such is hard and fast – I can’t find any data or statistical evidence anywhere,” he said.

“However, our network encompasses 30 offices in Sydney – I speak and deal with many other real estate professionals across the city as indeed developers and I speak to them on the coal face, as it were – and that’s predominantly where my evidence comes from.”

The Real Estate Institute’s Malcolm Gunning says many of those apartments may be legitimately empty.

“A lot of those properties might be used part-time, they might be used by ’empty nesters’ who have properties outside of Sydney and they may have a Sydney base, which is often the case or people who live interstate who use the property once a month or once or twice a year,” he said.

“Foreign investors will often buy the property and have their students occupy it for six months of the year and the other six months it lays vacant because they don’t want to lease it out.”

A more level playing field may include reserving a portion of new units for local residents or strategies like those used in Canada, which has a 15 per cent foreign buyer property surcharge.

But Mr Gunning warned such tactics had their drawbacks.

“In Vancouver, which is very similar to Sydney, what we see now is property prices falling rapidly because it’s a major disincentive for foreign investors,” he said.

The first step is to identify and quantify just how many apartments are being banked for capital gains benefits – and left empty.

CoreLogic

Meanwhile, CoreLogic says dwelling prices nationwide rose by 1.4 per cent in February with the median price standing at $570,000.

That’s up nearly 11 per cent over the past 12 months.

Mr Kusher said there was no stopping the growth in Australian property prices.

“It’s really strong, if you look at what’s happening in Sydney you’re seeing the fastest rate of growth on an annual basis since 2002 and across the combined capital cities, the strongest annual rate of growth since 2010 so the housing market is strong at a macro level but it’s still largely being fuelled by what’s happening in Sydney and Melbourne,” he said.

Sydney continues to drive house price gains, up 2.6 per cent last month and more than 18 per cent over the past year.

Mr Kusher said low interest rates along with migration and population growth, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, were fueling demand.

So too were investors, he said.

“If you look at the investor statistics in New South Wales, if you strip out refinances, they’re about 55 per cent of new lending in New South Wales, about 48 per cent in Victoria, historically those figures are much lower,” he said.

And foreign buyers continue to be a significant factor in the market.

A recent NAB report found they accounted for nearly 11 per cent of all new property purchased in the December quarter.

NAB

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Trump wants Aust-style immigration system

US President Donald Trump has flagged introducing an Australian-style immigration system as part of a sweeping overhaul of rules for foreigners wanting to make a new life in America.

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Mr Trump praised Australia’s points-based system for skilled migrants during an hour-long speech to a joint sitting of congress in which he also called on America’s allies for military support and hinted at trade reforms that could include new tariffs on overseas-made goods.

Returning to his election campaign mantra of making America great again, Mr Trump said a merit-based immigration system like Australia’s and Canada’s would save money and benefit low-income earning families.

“It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially,” he said.

“Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration and instead adopting a merit-based system will have many benefits: it will save countless dollars, raise workers’ wages and help struggling families – including immigrant families – enter the middle class.”

About two-thirds of the 190,000 visas Australia awards each year go to skilled migrants deemed to have enough “points” based on their age, English language skills, work experience and education qualifications.

Mr Trump’s speech largely focused on domestic issues like kickstarting the economy, scratching Obamacare and boosting military spending but offered no precise details on what he wants congress to approve.

He also again promised to build a wall along the Mexican border and beef up vetting procedures to “keep out those who would do us harm”.

US allies including Australia were put on notice that Mr Trump is preparing for a “robust” engagement with them and wants their support to destroy ISIS.

“We expect our partners, whether in NATO, in the Middle East or the Pacific to take a direct and meaningful role in both strategic and military operations and pay their fare share of the cost,” he said.

US political expert Dr John Hart, from ANU’s School of History, said allies like Australia would be wondering if they might be dragged into Mr Trump’s plan to destroy ISIS or potential military action in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, where Beijing has been building islands.

“If we are drawn into a military conflict with China or even a trade war with China the normal Australian rhetoric whenever America’s goals and China’s goals clash won’t be enough,” he told AAP.

“If there is a trade war and if there is a military confrontation Australia will be forced to choose.”

Meanwhile, Mr Trump has suggested foreign companies exporting to the US could have new tariffs imposed on their goods as part of his plan to kickstart the US economy.

“Currently when we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes but when foreign companies ship their products into America, we charge them almost nothing,” he said.

Dr Hart described the remark as “ridiculous” given the difficulties Australian sugar growers have exporting to the US.

Victorian renewable energy boost to be law

Fed up with waiting for a national renewable energy target, Victoria is going it alone.

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Legislation to lock in Victoria’s renewable targets at 25 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025 was introduced into parliament on Wednesday.

“What we know is in the absence of policy certainty and leadership from Canberra, it’s up to states like Victoria to fill that void, to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to drive the transition that is incredibly important,” Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters.

Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio called the targets “ambitious yet achievable”.

“This is the policy certainties and the right policy that industry have been deeply searching for to make sure they can make the right decisions to invest,” she told reporters.

To further encourage investment, a renewable energy auction will be opened to industry to compete to build sources producing up to 650MW – enough to power 389,000 households.

The first auctions open in October and are forecast to bring forward $1.3 billion in investment.

Tenders have been awarded to build two new solar farms in the Sunraysia district and near Shepparton that will provide 138MW to power Melbourne’s tram network.

The government says modelling shows bringing in more renewables will cut power costs by about $30 a year for households, $2500 for medium businesses and $140,000 for large companies, by 2034-35.

The savings are based on scenarios “chosen by the Victorian government”.

The future of coal is not mentioned in the plan, but Ms D’Ambrosio told reporters it would play a role “for many years to come.”

During parliamentary question time Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the government could only achieve its 2020 target with the closure of Hazelwood and asked if Yallourn W or Loy Yang A would close to meet the 40 per cent target.

“The simple answer is no, you are absolutely wrong,” Ms D’Ambrosio replied.

Mr Guy later told reporters energy reform was needed immediately to ease the financial pressure on consumers.

However he also said the Victoria should wait for a federal target because a state-based one would put it at a competitive disadvantage.

“It appears to be political vanity at great expense to consumers,” he said.

Sirtex shares drop on $26 million loss

Shares in liver cancer treatment developer Sirtex Medical have plunged after it ended a challenging year with a $26.

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3 million loss.

Sirtex said a previously announced $90.5 million writedown in the value of its clinical and research and development assets led to the loss, along with restructuring costs.

Excluding those one-off items, slowing sales growth contributed to a 21 per cent drop in underlying profit to $42.4 million in the 12 months to June 30 – the first fall since 2010/11.

Sirtex said it had a 5.4 per cent lift in global sales of doses of its core technology, a radiation therapy for liver cancer.

However sales growth in its largest market of America slowed to 4.6 per cent.

The company says referrals for the technology declined as competition for patients increased, including from drug-based therapies.

Sirtex also spent $4.1 million on restructuring the business in 2016/17, mostly on redundancies.

The company said it is committed to improving its market share and has cut costs to improve its financial performance, but some challenges may continue.

“We do anticipate the market conditions that manifested in FY17 may persist through FY18,” Sirtex said in a statement.

“Though the resetting of the business means we are now better positioned and more focussed on growing our core SIR-Spheres microspheres business.”

Sirtex shares dropped $1.70, or 10.5 per cent, to $14.56.

IMPAIRMENTS HIT SIRTEX AS SALES GROWTH SLOWS:

* Full-year loss of $26.3 million vs $53.6m profit

* Revenue up 0.9pct at $236.9m

* Final unfranked dividend 30 cents, unchanged

Higher IAG car claims push premiums higher

IAG will use higher motor insurance premiums to address the increased cost of claims that pushed down its full-year underlying insurance margin.

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The insurance giant lifted profit for the 12 months to June 30 by 48.6 per cent to $929 million after changes to compulsory third party insurance in NSW allowed higher than expected prior period reserve releases of $457 million.

That more than offset a rise in natural peril claims due to events including the Kaikoura earthquake in New Zealand and tropical Cyclone Debbie in Queensland.

But underlying insurance margin – IAG’s preferred measure of performance – fell from 14 per cent to 11.9 per cent partly due to higher motor claim costs in Australia and New Zealand, the insurer said on Wednesday.

IAG has already raised premiums to address the issue – helping lift gross written premium 3.9 per cent to $11.8 billion – and said the 2018 financial year should show further results of “ongoing rate initiatives to help address short tail claim pressures, notably in motor”.

Chief executive Peter Harmer said the plan was well advanced.

“We have a number of initiatives underway that look at how we can reduce the cost of managing claims in a way that creates affordable insurance options for customers both now and into the future,” Mr Harmer said.

“We expect these initiatives, which are being created in consultation with our customers, to be finalised in the first half of the 2018 financial year.”

Net natural peril claim costs rose to $822 million, which was up 24.7 per cent on 2016 and more than $140 million over allowance.

Investors were unimpressed, sending IAG shares down 54 cents, or eight per cent, to $6.22.

CAR CLAIMS CRASH IAG’S FULL-YEAR FINANCIALS

* Net profit up 48.6pct to $929m

* Gross written premium up 3.9pct to $11.8b

* Underlying insurance margin 11.9pct v 14.0pct

* Final dividend up seven cents to 20 cents, fully franked.

North Korea presses rocket program

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the production of more solid-fuel rocket engines as he pursues nuclear and missile programs amid a standoff with Washington, but there were signs of the drama easing.

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The report carried by the KCNA news agency lacked the traditionally robust threats against the United States after weeks of heightened tension, and US President Donald Trump expressed optimism about a possible improvement in relations.

“I respect the fact that he is starting to respect us,” Trump said of Kim at a raucous campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona.

“And maybe – probably not, but maybe – something positive can come about.”

The KCNA report, about Kim’s visit to a chemical institute, came not long after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to make a peace overture, welcoming what he called the recent restraint shown by the reclusive North.

Kim was briefed about the process of manufacturing intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) warhead tips and solid-fuel rocket engines during his tour of the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defence Science, KCNA said.

“He instructed the institute to produce more solid-fuel rocket engines and rocket warhead tips by further expanding engine production process and the production capacity of rocket warhead tips and engine jets by carbon/carbon compound material,” KCNA said.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and dozens of missile tests since the start of last year, significantly raising tensions on the heavily militarised Korean peninsula and in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. Two ICBM tests in July resulted in a new round of tougher global sanctions.

The last missile test on July 28 put the US mainland in range, prompting heated exchanges that raised fears of a new conflict on the peninsula.

Tillerson, however, noted what he called the restraint the North had shown and said he hoped a path could be opening for dialogue.

South Korea and the United States are conducting an annual joint drill this week involving computer simulations of a possible war, exercises that the North routinely describes as preparation for invasion. The drills started on Monday and run through to August 31.

The KCNA report said Kim had given “special thanks and special bonus” to officials of the institute, calling them heroes. A photograph showed Kim in a grey pinstriped suit, smiling before a large flow chart that described some kind of manufacturing process.

There was none of the fiery rhetoric of recent weeks, when Kim threatened to fire missiles into the sea near the US Pacific territory of Guam after Trump warned North Korea it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.

UNSW leads quantum computer project

Another Sydney university has joined the international race to develop the world’s first quantum computer.

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The University of NSW is the latest contender in what’s been called the space race of the 21st century after it launched Silicon Quantum Computing on Wednesday.

UNSW has partnered with Telstra and the Commonwealth Bank in the $83 million venture which will use technology developed at the university over the past two decades to build quantum computing hardware.

The University of Sydney in July revealed it had partnered with Microsoft to try and develop the world’s first quantum computer.

Quantum computers promise to deliver a massive increase in processing power over conventional computers by using a single electron or nucleus of an atom as the basic processing unit – a quantum bit, or qubit.

By performing multiple calculations simultaneously, quantum computers could be used to complete fast database searches, optimise traffic data and in artificial intelligence.

UNSW has received $8.7 million and $25 million boosts from the state and federal governments respectively to help create a prototype by 2022.

“It’s an exciting time to invest in this new industry that will shape the 21st century,” UNSW physics professor Michelle Simmons said in a statement on Wednesday.

Within the next five years, Silicon Quantum Computing will put together all the components of a quantum computer into a chip which will fast-track its ability to create a full-scale quantum computer, Telstra’s chief scientist Hugh Bradlow told AAP.

“UNSW is a world leader in this technology,” he said.

Skills Minister John Barilaro says this launch ensures NSW is a global leader in the space race.

“This new company, led by UNSW, will help to ensure we remain global leaders in the race to develop a silicon based quantum computer,” Skills Minister John Barilaro said in a statement on Wednesday.

The hardware will be built at the UNSW Sydney Kensington campus and at the University of Melbourne by a team of postdoctoral researchers, PhD students and lab technicians.

Cambodia orders US NGO to close and expels foreign staff

The order comes a day after the strongman premier threatened the Cambodia Daily, one of the country’s few remaining critical newspapers, with closer over an alleged unpaid tax bill of $6.

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3 million, calling them “thieves”.

In a statement on Wednesday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said foreign employees of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) have seven days to leave after the group allegedly failed to formally register or pay correct taxes.

“Authorities are geared up to take the same measures against any foreign association or non-government organisation that fails to abide” by Cambodia’s laws, the statement added.

In recent weeks a string of foreign-funded organisations including the NDI have been named in Cambodia’s pro-government press or by officials as facing tax or regulatory probes.

Political playbook

Analysts say the cascade of legal cases is straight from the political playbook of Hun Sen, who has cornered opponents throughout his three-decade rule, in the run-up to elections.

Cambodians are due to go to the polls in just under a year, in a poll many expect to be a close-run affair.

Apart from the Cambodia Daily, which is owned by an American, the US-funded Radio Free Asia and Voice of America have also been legally targeted.

All have denied wrongdoing and said they are being selected for their independent reporting.

In a statement, the Overseas Press Club of Cambodia said the Cambodia Daily “has a history of running stories that have angered the government, leading many to believe the tax department is being used to target critics” before the poll.

The NDI, which says it works to strengthen democratic institutions worldwide, has been operating in Cambodia since 1992.

A country ravaged by war

In recent weeks, pro-government media have accused the organisation of helping Cambodia’s opposition party to try to topple the government.

The NDI, chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But they have previously declared themselves as “strictly non-partisan”, adding they also trained many members of Hun Sen’s ruling party.

To supporters, Hun Sen – one of the world’s longest serving leaders – has brought growth and stability to an impoverished country ravaged by decades of war.

But critics say corruption, inequality and rights abuses have also flourished.

Growing closer to China

In recent years he has grown closer to China while criticising the US, one of Cambodia’s largest donors.

In 2015 the government passed a broadly-worded law regulating NGOs. Critics warned the legislation would make it much easier to shutter organisations deemed critical of the government.

Impoverished Cambodia is home to some 5,000 NGOs.

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Queensland to implement safety laws following Dreamworld disaster

Rides at theme parks, shows and fetes also require less stringent inspections than cranes, the state government’s recently published review of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) regulations has also shown.

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The review, commissioned after the death of four people on Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids ride and a fatal workplace accident at Eagle Farm racecourse last year, has outlined a number of gaping holes in public safety issues at these facilities.

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It prompted the government to introduce industrial manslaughter laws that will hold corporations and negligent individuals responsible for any deaths.

The review found some rides at school fetes and small local shows are more than 30 years old, and aren’t subjected to any major inspection requirements.

It has earmarked “poor mechanical integrity and lack of modern safety control measures” as a “significant concern” for these older rides.

“High turnover of operators (especially for mobile amusement devices at smaller shows) and lack of effective operator training are significant contributing factors to amusement device incidents,” the report also noted.

Similar concerns were raised for established theme parks like Dreamworld.

Following the deaths of Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett and Roozi Araghi on October 25 last year when Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids ride malfunctioned, WHSQ conducted audits on 90 rides at major theme parks.

It found annual inspections of rides are legally required but that they fall short of the type of inspections required for plant equipment like cranes.

Inspectors also noted there were no strict rules surrounding competency of ride operators.

“By way of comparison, a high-risk work licence is required to operate a forklift truck and arguably the risk associated with the operation of certain large amusement devices is significantly higher than for a forklift,” the review said.

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the government’s implementation of the 58 recommendations in the review would give the public more confidence in the amusement industry.

“Our harsher penalties will serve as a deterrent to employers who are tempted to cut corners when it comes to safety in the workplace,” she said.

Queensland Emergency service personnel are seen at amusement theme park Dreamworld on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016 (AAP)AAP

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Turnbull tries to turn page at paper mill

With three of his ministers bound for the High Court and the same-sex marriage debate raging on, Malcolm Turnbull was struggling for clear air.

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It was time for the company of some familiar faces, to turn over a new page.

Or better yet, an enormous stockpile of freshly-made paper in Tumut to try and rewrite the script.

So on came the hard hat, headset and high vis as he headed off for a tour of paper giant Anthony Pratt’s mill in southern NSW.

The location was not lost on the prime minister as he stepped out of the car and into the town where his father was born in 1926.

As the eligibility of his cabinet colleagues dominated headlines across the country, it was a fact Mr Turnbull returned to several times throughout the day.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about people having citizenship by descent, so on that basis I’m a citizen of Tumut by descent. I hope you won’t disown me,” he told those attending a lunch on site.

Taking a turn around the mill, Mr Turnbull was surprised to learn how few workers were required at any one time to keep the manufacturing plant afloat.

He and Mr Pratt talked shop as they trotted over boardwalks high above the ground and snaked through a series of throbbingly loud factory floors, as a throng of photographers followed their every move.

“Anthony, we are so proud, all of us here, of what your family has achieved. It is a remarkable Australian success story,” Mr Turnbull later proclaimed as he dined with the Pratts.

The PM’s extraordinary outburst at Bill Shorten – whom he labelled a parasite and social-climbing sycophant for sipping champagne with billionaires including the Pratts – must have seemed a distant memory.

“You are great Australians, making a great commitment to our great nation,” Mr Turnbull told the family.

Mr Pratt on Wednesday announced a $2 billion plan to create thousands of manufacturing jobs over 10 years.

He made the same pledge to Donald Trump in New York three months ago, which the prime minister was also in town to see.

A $100 million upgrade to the Tumut mill would be the first in a series of investments in Visy’s Australian operations, creating some 13,000 permanent jobs plus another 14,000 construction jobs.

The prime minister gave a long and wide-ranging press conference on the virtues of jobs and investment, Australia’s involvement in global wars and the simmering citizenship crisis.

But there was one question he would not go near – just why was he in town?

“There’s no federal funding in this announcement today, so what are you doing here? Is this to assure voters that you’re not distracted?” he was asked by a reporter.

“Thanks for the editorial,” Mr Turnbull fired back. “Do you have any other questions?”

Shoppers reject Reject Shop’s new products

Discount retailer The Reject Shop says it has failed to get its product range right amid a decline in consumer spending.

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The Reject Shop’s net profit dropped 28 per cent to $12.3 million in the year to July 2, as the company had forecast in April.

Weak trading conditions, particularly in Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, contributed to a fall in like-for-like sales of 1.6 per cent.

Chief executive Ross Sudano said sales were particularly challenging in the second half of the year, largely due to declines in consumer spending and a poorly received merchandise strategy.

He said the group had over invested in new products at the expense of everyday value and branded bargains.

“The impact was a perceived loss in value by some of our customers and reduced foot traffic,” Mr Sudano said.

“This occurred at a time when the availability of discretionary income is challenged, and consumer confidence amongst our core customers continued to deteriorate.”

Mr Sudano said The Reject Shop was returning to basics, with a focus on everyday items at good prices, and branded bargains.

However, the tough trading conditions experienced in the second half of 2016/17 have continued into the current financial year.

The company’s comparable sales in the first seven weeks of 2017/18 were down three per cent on the same period a year ago.

“Nonetheless, we are confident that our continuing initiatives to improve sales, along with the positive effects expected from the promotional activities planned from September, will see the company return to positive comparable sales growth during the half, albeit at a low level,” he said.

Shares in The Reject Shop dropped 26 cents, or 5.9 per cent, to $4.14.

THE REJECT SHOP HIT BY SALES SLUMP:

* Full year net profit down 27.8pct to $12.3m

* Total sales revenue down 0.7pct to $794m

* No final dividend, down from 19 cents

Aussie squad feels the heat in Bangladesh

The Bangladeshi weather is proving challenging in more ways than one for Australia’s Test squad, with allrounder Glenn Maxwell suffering heatstroke during training.

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Maxwell has revealed he fell ill during the first day of training in Dhaka ahead of the first Test starting on Sunday.

The local monsoon season has made for punishing weather, with periodic rain and thunderstorms giving way to sweltering heat and humidity.

“I copped a bit of heatstroke on the first day, which wasn’t a good start,” Maxwell said on Wednesday.

“I think just doing some running outside, then I had to go inside to do some fitness testing, and going back outside probably didn’t help too much.

“Basically, my body shut down a little bit but I was fine after a bit of an ice bath and plenty of fluids.”

Steve Smith’s men had a light training session on Wednesday, with a waterlogged ground having earlier forced the cancellation of a tour match on the outskirts of Dhaka.

It was a different story on Tuesday when the squad trained in the heat for almost three hours, pushing pacemen Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Jackson Bird to the point of exhaustion.

“Yesterday was obviously pretty tough,” Maxwell said.’

“Obviously with the morning rain and the overnight rain, I think all the moisture’s coming out of the ground and making it quite sweaty work for us.

“But it’s been good. We’ve got a lot out of the last few days, basically putting on the finishing touches for day one.”

Australia’s disrupted preparation has raised questions about their level of readiness to face an improving Bangladeshi side which has proven tough to beat on home soil.

But Maxwell said the squad’s pre-tour training camp in tropical Darwin had been more than ample preparation.

“The way we prepared in Darwin, I think the wickets were perfect,” he said.

“Even coming here and having a couple of hits on these wickets, it’s very similar to what we were facing in Darwin, if not a little bit easier I suppose in the nets.

“We put extreme conditions in Darwin with the wickets where we made them ridiculously tough to bat on, and guys tested themselves really well during that week.

“I think the guys are more than well-equipped to handle whatever comes at us in this first Test.”