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The first trading day of a new year inevitably leads to looking at how different asset classes crossed the finishing line when the JSE closed at noon on Monday. The JSE’s range of exchange-traded products (ETPs) — an umbrella term for exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that physically own the commodities or equities they represent and exchange-traded notes (ETNs), which track their prices synthetically with rolling futures contracts — provide a handy way to get an overview.

Rhodium was the JSE’s star performer for a second consecutive year. After leading in 2017 with a 101.5% gain, the rhodium ETF offered to JSE investors by Standard Bank gained a further 64.6% in 2018. Rhodium’s strong run is related to the rising price of sister platinum group metal (PGM) palladium and decline in the price of platinum. Platinum getting cheaper and palladium getting more expensive prompted manufacturers of autocatalysts for petrol engines to switch metals. Autocatalysts made out of platinum need mo...

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