As most ASX investors know, the local index skews pretty heavily towards mining and banks.

Having crunched some numbers, Stockhead can reveal that of the 2,224 listed companies in Australia, 814 are in mining and resources. That’s more than a third of all listings (around 36 per cent).

For context, the much larger US markets have more than 6,000 listings across the Dow Jones and the NASDAQ. But only 367 of those (around 6 per cent) are mining stocks.

Resources also makes up around 27 per cent of the ASX by market capitalisation. Throw in the financials sector (with the big four banks) and that’s more than half the index.

Given those heavy weightings, local investors are always on the lookout for new ideas and sectors where interesting ideas are under way.

Chemicals

There are 20 small-cap stocks on the ASX classified as chemicals stocks under the GICS global classification code.

They span across a unique array of industries — from fertilisers to zinc-based sunscreen manufacturers.

And chemistry forms a key part of most clean energy projects including carbon capture, wastewater treatment and plant biomass.

Also of note: the sector is up an average of more than 22 per cent this year, with 12 of the 20 companies posting a 2019 gain.

Here are the returns by company (including a split-out of their specific sector):

CodeNameIndustryPrice ($)Total Return YTDMarket Cap
ANO ADVANCE NANOTEK LTDZinc sunscreen manufacturer3.75310% $217,973,440.00
AJX ALEXIUM INTERNATIONAL GROUPTextiles - flame retardent clothing0.120% $39,726,012.00
BGT BIO-GENE TECHNOLOGY LTDBiotech - Insecticides0.09-10% $11,610,684.00
CXL CALIX LTDAgritech0.75-6% $92,154,672.00
CG1 CARBONXT GROUP LTDCarbon capture technology0.3517% $30,636,788.00
CLV CLOVER CORP LTDInfant formula1.7024% $279,982,976.00
DNK DANAKALI LTDFertiliser0.773% $202,283,136.00
FGR FIRST GRAPHENE LTDGraphene producer0.1813% $74,462,224.00
HZR HAZER GROUP LTDHydrogen / graphite producer0.30-3% $29,178,256.00
HFR HIGHFIELD RESOURCES LTDPotash0.64-1% $210,896,000.00
KLL KALIUM LAKES LTDPotash0.5059% $94,550,328.00
LER LEAF RESOURCES LTDEco-friendly plant biomass0.05-11% $15,260,334.00
PWN PARKWAY MINERALS NLFertiliser0.004-20% $2,433,307.75
RAN RANGE INTERNATIONAL LTDPlastic pallets0.030% $5,428,484.50
RWD REWARD MINERALS LTDPotash0.1215% $18,698,546.00
SO4 SALT LAKE POTASH LTDPotash0.6029% $122,730,992.00
SDV SCIDEV LTDWastewater treatment0.0617% $5,149,005.50
SES SECOS GROUP LTDSustainable packaging technology0.05-23% $14,083,922.00
TTT TITOMIC LTDManufacturing, 3D Printing2.12-13% $260,968,224.00
ZNO ZOONO GROUP LTDSanitiser products - hands & surfaces0.1247% $18,780,962.00

The standout performer this year is Advance Nanotek (ASX: ANO) which has been on a tear — up more than 300 per cent so far this year to $3.25.

Back in January, it launched a brand of “ethical” sunscreen based on one of the company’s zinc dispersion products.

But its gains in March have been such that late last week, the ASX asked the company for some context around its rapid price appreciation.

ANO’s response? \_(ツ)_/

“On behalf of the Board, I apologise for the inability to explain the rapid increase in our share price,” MD Geoff Acton said.

He said the share price moves were being driven by low volumes, and there was no key news or deals in the pipeline to warrant the recent bout of demand.

While ANO is the standout, the sector has warranted some closer attention in the early part of the year, with eight of the companies we tracked posting double-digit gains of more than 15 per cent.