Fortem Capital Alternative Growth Fund

UK & EU – For professional and institutional investors only
Switzerland – this is an advertising document for professional and institutional clients as defined by the Swiss Financial Services Act only

Monthly Commentary – 30th September 2021

Somewhat surprisingly, given recent history, it was not the pandemic that caused markets to wobble in September, but rather a cocktail of rising inflation, supply chain issues, moderating growth and China’s beleaguered property sector. Once again investors should take note that equities and bonds wobbled simultaneously, symptomatic of the worries being largely inflation based as well as a shift in central bank rhetoric to a more hawkish tone, and the definition of what counts as ‘transitory’ extended once more.

The Fund was down 0.4% over the month.

Ordinarily, a month such as September in which bonds and equities fall would be one in which the Fund would be expected to perform well. However, there are idiosyncratic risks present, and commodity markets saw huge moves in September, particularly in natural gas. The Fund is short nat gas timespreads, which hurt as they have more than doubled. Over the past year, commodities steepening into near record backwardation has been a detractor to performance in general. Agriculturals were first, largely due to Chinese demand for US crops pre-harvest in order to replenish their own pandemic-induced depleted reserves. Now energy has gone the same way. The Fund’s commodity strategies will benefit as and when they move back to contango, which they must do eventually as one cannot be paid for somebody else to store on their behalf ad infinitum.

Within oil, inventories are falling, but there is really no inventory shortage, meaning that barring production cuts (unlikely in the current climate) there is a limit to how backwardated oil curves should be. There is clearly also much scope for mean reversion back to contango on the back of a worsening macroeconomic backdrop and associated falls in demand. Natural gas has been the real mover of late and the curve is now extremely backwardated. The greater difficulty in storing nat gas means it is always volatile and susceptible to big impacts from weather. It is highly unusual for spreads to be this elevated at this time of year, largely because so little is currently known about whether the winter will be cold or mild. The reason is ‘low inventory’. While inventory is slightly below the 10 year average, it is only slight, and the type of storage that is more reactive is bang in line. Undoubtedly, the fact that the global media have really run with the ‘global gas shortage’ story has also had a marked effect; in Europe this is true, where inventories are 8% below average, and due to not being able to move gas from the US to Europe, there might be higher gas prices to come for Europeans if winter is cold. However, in the US there is no shortage, meaning that unless winter is brutally cold, it is highly likely nat gas spreads finish lower than where they reside currently, making the Fund’s commodity strategies money.

Similarly, some of the more defensive convex strategies are negatively affected by markets selling off and recovering intraday, they start to really kick in on market panics in which markets sell off heavily through the day. Given the journey of travel this year, it might be argued that September was a healthy pause, whether this is the case remains to be seen.

The Fund’s rates strategies did react well to the first knockings of volatility the bond market has experienced in some months. Yields are still incredibly low historically, but there is a growing sense that central banks are coming to a decision that has been obviously on the horizon to some for some time; raise rates in order to control inflation for the benefit of non-asset owners that rely on inflation-adjusted wage growth for living standards, but badly damage asset prices in the process. Or, prioritise asset markets. Whether this is politically possible any longer is up for debate.

Within the Fund, the position in gold was replaced with a gold seasonality strategy, which has been in development for some time. The strategy is long gold during Asian hours, and can go short during European hours when most hedging activity occurs.

Total Return 2021 Sept
UK 100 13.0% -0.2%
US 500 15.6% -4.7%
Europe 50 15.9% -3.4%
Japan 225 8.6% 5.4%
Hong Kong 50 -7.6% -4.7%
US 2000 12.4% -3.0%
Swiss 30 11.2% -6.1%
BCOM 29.1% 5.0%
US Treasury -1.6% -0.9%
FTSE EPRA 15.6% -6.9%
PGF 5.2% -1.2%
AGF -0.9% -0.4%
Real Estate 13.6% -6.8%
US Equity Income n/a -4.7%

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