The Volkswagen diesel emission scandal helped to bolster palladium prices, contributing to the Implats share price increasing fourfold in 2019. (Photo: Volkswagen)
  • The JSE's all share index gained 8% in 2019 - but this number belies the diverging fortunes of different sectors.
  • Mining shares rallied, with Impala Platinum up almost fourfold  in a single year.
  • But many retail shares were falling apart. 
  • For more stories, go to the Business Insider SA home page.

An investment in the then loss-making Impala Platinum a year ago would have grown your money fourfold in a single year.

Its share price gain of more than 290% was by far the top performance on the JSE in 2019, according to data compiled by PSG’s Schalk Louw.

2019 biggest winners...

Source: Schalk Louw/PSG

and losers

Source: Schalk Louw/JSE

Implats, which employs 50,000 people mostly in South Africa, benefitted from the platinum price rising 22% in 2019, but also from a further 60% jump in the price of palladium.

Palladium – used in the manufacturing of petrol-fuelled vehicles' exhausts, to help cut down emissions - has jumped from around $450/oz in 2016 to more than $1,900 currently amid a big shortage of the metal. It is now worth far more than platinum, of which there is a surplus. Also, platinum is mainly used for diesel vehicles and Volkswagen’s rigging of diesel-emissions testing equipment in 2016 has been weighing on demand for diesel engines.

Other platinum-group miners - including Sibanye (+260%) and Anglo American Platinum (+148%) have also seen massive rallies in 2019.

A 19% jump in the gold price – its strongest rally since 2010 - has helped to almost double the share prices of Harmony and Gold Fields, which both ended the year more than 90% higher. AngloGold was up 74%. Other mining groups, including Anglo American (+30%) and Kumba (+55%) also saw strong gains.

But despite the oil price rising more than 20% in 2019, Sasol’s share price slumped almost 30% after continuing bad news from its massive Lake Charles chemicals project in Louisiana in the US, which will cost billions more than expected.

On the face of it, the JSE had a pretty solid year, with the all-share index up 8% - including dividends, the total return was 12%, which handily outperformed inflation (currently 3.6%).

But this belies the absolute carnage in some parts of the market, particularly among companies that are dependent on the sluggish South African economy.

The retail sector was bleeding out of all orifices, as the depressed consumer spending started to hit bottom lines. Massmart (Makro and Game) lost half of its value in a single year, while Truworths dropped 40%, Shoprite lost almost a third and Mr Price fell 23%. Despite a presentable performance in South Africa, Woolworths’ share price was down almost 10% as its Australian woes dragged on.

Discovery’s share price lost 23%, due in part to uncertainty about the incoming NHI. Nedbank was down 20%, with other banks marginally lower.

However, Capitec jumped almost a third as the bank reported headline profit of almost R3 billion for the six months to end-August.

Elsewhere in the world, markets cruised ahead in 2019, with the US market gaining almost 30%, thanks in part to a rallying technology sector, which had its strongest year in a decade. The S&P 500, the Nasdaq Composite and Dow closed the year just below their all-time highs.

The Stoxx Europe 600 jump 23% during the year. China's Shanghai Composite rose 22%, and Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 18%.

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