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How a tech stock boom washed away the investment pains of 2020


The year just gone will always have an asterisk next to it on any list of notable years.

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For investors, it was just as hair-raising, from the record level of the ASX in February of 7230 points to the March collapse when lockdowns were announced and the All Ords fell to 4564 on March 10, right through to one of the most impressive economic recoveries we’ve witnessed.

For Queensland, it was the year of the tech stocks. That was mirrored nationally, too. The All Technology Index jumped from 2018 to a peak on December 17 of 2921.

Nothing did better than tech, not even iron ore stocks like Fortescue came close to a little “penny dreadful” in Eight Mile Plains, AnteoTech, which has been developing battery technology and a virus detection kit.

When it pivoted to refining its detection kit to COVID-19 it made a major breakthrough in the sensitivity of its detection. Its claim is that it can detect the virus faster and sooner than anyone else.

Until Ellume came along and received FDA approval in the US for its test kit, Anteotech was soaring. It fell 16 per cent the day of the Ellume announcement.

Even so, its shares are up 230 per cent on the start of the year. That puts it close to Afterpay, which reached almost 300 per cent for a product that is yet to make a profit. But before you start looking for the next big thing, Anteotech’s rise was from 3 cents to 10 cents. It is still very much a junior stock.

Novonix came in second on the Queensland ladder with an impressive 190 per cent increase as it continued to develop its own battery technology.

That gave Trevor St Baker a healthy boost to his personal wealth. He owns 17 per cent of the Novonix stock and the value of that stake increased by $42 million.

Cosol, another technology company, had a booming year with an increase in its shares of about 105 per cent.

Craig Scroggie’s NEXTDC came in fourth with an 87 per cent increase.

The performance ladder then deviates into food with Domino’s jumping 61 per cent.

Then came the first of the mining stocks, Orocobre, with a 55 per cent increase allong with Alliance Aviation, also at 55 per cent, which benefitted heavily from the resources sector and the collapse of Virgin as well its expansion plans

After that brief sojourn outside tech, Data3 came in next in the market at a 48 per cent increase.

The worst stocks? It’s hard to pin a badge on which was worst. Collection House remains in a trading suspension trying to get financing and consistently telling everyone: “soon’’.

Smiles Inclusive is in a similar predicament after a year of brawling for control of the company.

Cromwell hasn’t performed badly but remains an abject lesson in what happens to a company when its management and biggest shareholder don’t share the same strategic view.

The fight for control at Cromwell is likely to be resolved at an upcoming EGM.

Some of the smaller mining stocks had a shocker in 2020. Metallica Minerals halved its share price. Flight Centre did even worse dropping from $44 down to just below $9 as travel around the globe came to a halt.

It has since recovered to the point where it was trading close to $18 in mid-December, but has been falling quickly as COVID made a return.

Cellnet has had a bumpy ride starting the year at 18 cents and falling as low as 3 cents and touching highs of 21.

Blair Athol miner, Terracom, also halved its share price as the price for thermal coal fell out of bed. Coronado suffered a similar fate, falling 48 per cent.

(Prices were correct as of December 18)

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