A worker at Twintec, in Königswinter, Germany, with a soot filter catalyst. Catalytic converters for cars use platinum, palladium and rhodium. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
A worker at Twintec, in Königswinter, Germany, with a soot filter catalyst. Catalytic converters for cars use platinum, palladium and rhodium. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

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 more rhodium, leading to a supply shortage and rocketing prices.

Second place went to Absa’s palladium ETF, which gained 34.6% over the year, slightly more than Standard Bank’s palladium ETF, which gained 34.4%. Standard Bank’s palladium ETF in turn beat fourth place to Standard Bank’s palladium ETN, which gained 32.5%.

Platinum, in contrast with its sister metals rhodium and palladium, had a disappointing 2018, reflected by Absa’s platinum ETF declining 2.2%.

Another commodity, wheat, which Standard Bank offers as an ETN, was the sixth best place to keep your money in 2018, followed by two products that allow South Africans to hold their savings in US money market accounts.

The list of the 10 worst performing ETPs in 2018 is dominated by property stocks.

The worst performer was CoreShares ETF, which tracks the South African property index (Sapy) (the index declined 30.5% over the year).

The second worst was the equally weighted portfolio of the JSE’s 10 largest property companies by market capitalisation, which suffered a 30.1% decline, followed by Stanlib’s property ETF, which lost 29.4%.

The benchmark Satrix top 40 ETF, which tracks the JSE’s top 40 index, suffered a 10.35% decline in 2018 following 2017’s 20.56% growth.

The JSE’s all share index suffered an 11.37% decline over 2018, making it the local bourse’s worst year since 2008 when the index fell 25.72%, but then rebounded 28.6% in 2009.

In 2017, the all share index rose 17.47%, a recovery from stagnation in 2016 when it declined a fraction, 0.08%, and 2015 when it rose a lacklustre 1.85%.

In terms of individual constituents of the all share index, the JSE’s best performing share in 2018 was Montauk, a US gas company spun-off from Hosken Consolidated Investments, which rose 60.77%.

The second best was Allied Electronics, which gained 51.26%. Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) came third, with a 50.1% rebound, and AngloGold Ashanti fourth, with a 41% gain.

Lighthouse Capital’s 84.5% decline over the year made it the JSE’s worst performer, followed by Ascendis Health which ended 2018 75.7% down.

Rebosis Property was the JSE’s third worst performing stock in 2018, with a 72.35% drop, and Steinhoff International — which suffered a 93.5% decline in 2017 — fell a further 63% in 2018.

laingr@businesslive.co.za