Derivative Pricing Theory: Call, Put Options and “Black, Scholes'” Hedged Portfolio.Thought of the Day 152.0



Fischer Black and Myron Scholes revolutionized the pricing theory of options by showing how to hedge continuously the exposure on the short position of an option. Consider the writer of a call option on a risky asset. S/he is exposed to the risk of unlimited liability if the asset price rises above the strike price. To protect the writer’s short position in the call option, s/he should consider purchasing a certain amount of the underlying asset so that the loss in the short position in the call option is offset by the long position in the asset. In this way, the writer is adopting the hedging procedure. A hedged position combines an option with its underlying asset so as to achieve the goal that either the asset compensates the option against loss or otherwise. By adjusting the proportion of the underlying asset and option continuously in a portfolio, Black and Scholes demonstrated that investors can create a riskless hedging portfolio where the risk exposure associated with the stochastic asset price is eliminated. In an efficient market with no riskless arbitrage opportunity, a riskless portfolio must earn an expected rate of return equal to the riskless interest rate.

Black and Scholes made the following assumptions on the financial market.

  1. Trading takes place continuously in time.
  2. The riskless interest rate r is known and constant over time.
  3. The asset pays no dividend.
  4. There are no transaction costs in buying or selling the asset or the option, and no taxes.
  5. The assets are perfectly divisible.
  6. There are no penalties to short selling and the full use of proceeds is permitted.
  7. There are no riskless arbitrage opportunities.

The stochastic process of the asset price St is assumed to follow the geometric Brownian motion

dSt/St = μ dt + σ dZt —– (1)

where μ is the expected rate of return, σ is the volatility and Zt is the standard Brownian process. Both μ and σ are assumed to be constant. Consider a portfolio that involves short selling of one unit of a call option and long holding of Δt units of the underlying asset. The portfolio value Π (St, t) at time t is given by

Π = −c + Δt St —– (2)

where c = c(St, t) denotes the call price. Note that Δt changes with time t, reflecting the dynamic nature of hedging. Since c is a stochastic function of St, we apply the Ito lemma to compute its differential as follows:

dc = ∂c/∂t dt + ∂c/∂St dSt + σ2/2 St2 ∂2c/∂St2 dt

such that

-dc + Δt dS= (-∂c/∂t – σ2/2 St2 ∂2c/∂St2)dt + (Δ– ∂c/∂St)dSt

= [-∂c/∂t – σ2/2 St2 ∂2c/∂St+ (Δ– ∂c/∂St)μSt]dt + (Δ– ∂c/∂St)σSdZt

The cumulative financial gain on the portfolio at time t is given by

G(Π (St, t )) = ∫0t -dc + ∫0t Δu dSu

= ∫0t [-∂c/∂u – σ2/2 Su22c/∂Su2 + (Δ– ∂c/∂Su)μSu]du + ∫0t (Δ– ∂c/∂Su)σSdZ—– (3)

The stochastic component of the portfolio gain stems from the last term, ∫0t (Δ– ∂c/∂Su)σSdZu. Suppose we adopt the dynamic hedging strategy by choosing Δu = ∂c/∂Su at all times u < t, then the financial gain becomes deterministic at all times. By virtue of no arbitrage, the financial gain should be the same as the gain from investing on the risk free asset with dynamic position whose value equals -c + Su∂c/∂Su. The deterministic gain from this dynamic position of riskless asset is given by

Mt = ∫0tr(-c + Su∂c/∂Su)du —– (4)

By equating these two deterministic gains, G(Π (St, t)) and Mt, we have

-∂c/∂u – σ2/2 Su22c/∂Su2 = r(-c + Su∂c/∂Su), 0 < u < t

which is satisfied for any asset price S if c(S, t) satisfies the equation

∂c/∂t + σ2/2 S22c/∂S+ rS∂c/∂S – rc = 0 —– (5)

This parabolic partial differential equation is called the Black–Scholes equation. Strangely, the parameter μ, which is the expected rate of return of the asset, does not appear in the equation.

To complete the formulation of the option pricing model, let’s prescribe the auxiliary condition. The terminal payoff at time T of the call with strike price X is translated into the following terminal condition:

c(S, T ) = max(S − X, 0) —– (6)

for the differential equation.

Since both the equation and the auxiliary condition do not contain ρ, one concludes that the call price does not depend on the actual expected rate of return of the asset price. The option pricing model involves five parameters: S, T, X, r and σ. Except for the volatility σ, all others are directly observable parameters. The independence of the pricing model on μ is related to the concept of risk neutrality. In a risk neutral world, investors do not demand extra returns above the riskless interest rate for bearing risks. This is in contrast to usual risk averse investors who would demand extra returns above r for risks borne in their investment portfolios. Apparently, the option is priced as if the rates of return on the underlying asset and the option are both equal to the riskless interest rate. This risk neutral valuation approach is viable if the risks from holding the underlying asset and option are hedgeable.

The governing equation for a put option can be derived similarly and the same Black–Scholes equation is obtained. Let V (S, t) denote the price of a derivative security with dependence on S and t, it can be shown that V is governed by

∂V/∂t + σ2/2 S22V/∂S+ rS∂V/∂S – rV = 0 —– (7)

The price of a particular derivative security is obtained by solving the Black–Scholes equation subject to an appropriate set of auxiliary conditions that model the corresponding contractual specifications in the derivative security.

The original derivation of the governing partial differential equation by Black and Scholes focuses on the financial notion of riskless hedging but misses the precise analysis of the dynamic change in the value of the hedged portfolio. The inconsistencies in their derivation stem from the assumption of keeping the number of units of the underlying asset in the hedged portfolio to be instantaneously constant. They take the differential change of portfolio value Π to be

dΠ =−dc + Δt dSt,

which misses the effect arising from the differential change in Δt. The ability to construct a perfectly hedged portfolio relies on the assumption of continuous trading and continuous asset price path. It has been commonly agreed that the assumed Geometric Brownian process of the asset price may not truly reflect the actual behavior of the asset price process. The asset price may exhibit jumps upon the arrival of a sudden news in the financial market. The interest rate is widely recognized to be fluctuating over time in an irregular manner rather than being constant. For an option on a risky asset, the interest rate appears only in the discount factor so that the assumption of constant/deterministic interest rate is quite acceptable for a short-lived option. The Black–Scholes pricing approach assumes continuous hedging at all times. In the real world of trading with transaction costs, this would lead to infinite transaction costs in the hedging procedure.


Accelerated Capital as an Anathema to the Principles of Communicative Action. A Note Quote on the Reciprocity of Capital and Ethicality of Financial Economics


Markowitz portfolio theory explicitly observes that portfolio managers are not (expected) utility maximisers, as they diversify, and offers the hypothesis that a desire for reward is tempered by a fear of uncertainty. This model concludes that all investors should hold the same portfolio, their individual risk-reward objectives are satisfied by the weighting of this ‘index portfolio’ in comparison to riskless cash in the bank, a point on the capital market line. The slope of the Capital Market Line is the market price of risk, which is an important parameter in arbitrage arguments.

Merton had initially attempted to provide an alternative to Markowitz based on utility maximisation employing stochastic calculus. He was only able to resolve the problem by employing the hedging arguments of Black and Scholes, and in doing so built a model that was based on the absence of arbitrage, free of turpe-lucrum. That the prescriptive statement “it should not be possible to make sure profits”, is a statement explicit in the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and in employing an Arrow security in the context of the Law of One Price. Based on these observations, we conject that the whole paradigm for financial economics is built on the principle of balanced reciprocity. In order to explore this conjecture we shall examine the relationship between commerce and themes in Pragmatic philosophy. Specifically, we highlight Robert Brandom’s (Making It Explicit Reasoning, Representing, and Discursive Commitment) position that there is a pragmatist conception of norms – a notion of primitive correctnesses of performance implicit in practice that precludes and are presupposed by their explicit formulation in rules and principles.

The ‘primitive correctnesses’ of commercial practices was recognised by Aristotle when he investigated the nature of Justice in the context of commerce and then by Olivi when he looked favourably on merchants. It is exhibited in the doux-commerce thesis, compare Fourcade and Healey’s contemporary description of the thesis Commerce teaches ethics mainly through its communicative dimension, that is, by promoting conversations among equals and exchange between strangers, with Putnam’s description of Habermas’ communicative action based on the norm of sincerity, the norm of truth-telling, and the norm of asserting only what is rationally warranted …[and] is contrasted with manipulation (Hilary Putnam The Collapse of the Fact Value Dichotomy and Other Essays)

There are practices (that should be) implicit in commerce that make it an exemplar of communicative action. A further expression of markets as centres of communication is manifested in the Asian description of a market brings to mind Donald Davidson’s (Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective) argument that knowledge is not the product of a bipartite conversations but a tripartite relationship between two speakers and their shared environment. Replacing the negotiation between market agents with an algorithm that delivers a theoretical price replaces ‘knowledge’, generated through communication, with dogma. The problem with the performativity that Donald MacKenzie (An Engine, Not a Camera_ How Financial Models Shape Markets) is concerned with is one of monism. In employing pricing algorithms, the markets cannot perform to something that comes close to ‘true belief’, which can only be identified through communication between sapient humans. This is an almost trivial observation to (successful) market participants, but difficult to appreciate by spectators who seek to attain ‘objective’ knowledge of markets from a distance. To appreciate the relevance to financial crises of the position that ‘true belief’ is about establishing coherence through myriad triangulations centred on an asset rather than relying on a theoretical model.

Shifting gears now, unless the martingale measure is a by-product of a hedging approach, the price given by such martingale measures is not related to the cost of a hedging strategy therefore the meaning of such ‘prices’ is not clear. If the hedging argument cannot be employed, as in the markets studied by Cont and Tankov (Financial Modelling with Jump Processes), there is no conceptual framework supporting the prices obtained from the Fundamental Theorem of Asset Pricing. This lack of meaning can be interpreted as a consequence of the strict fact/value dichotomy in contemporary mathematics that came with the eclipse of Poincaré’s Intuitionism by Hilbert’s Formalism and Bourbaki’s Rationalism. The practical problem of supporting the social norms of market exchange has been replaced by a theoretical problem of developing formal models of markets. These models then legitimate the actions of agents in the market without having to make reference to explicitly normative values.

The Efficient Market Hypothesis is based on the axiom that the market price is determined by the balance between supply and demand, and so an increase in trading facilitates the convergence to equilibrium. If this axiom is replaced by the axiom of reciprocity, the justification for speculative activity in support of efficient markets disappears. In fact, the axiom of reciprocity would de-legitimise ‘true’ arbitrage opportunities, as being unfair. This would not necessarily make the activities of actual market arbitrageurs illicit, since there are rarely strategies that are without the risk of a loss, however, it would place more emphasis on the risks of speculation and inhibit the hubris that has been associated with the prelude to the recent Crisis. These points raise the question of the legitimacy of speculation in the markets. In an attempt to understand this issue Gabrielle and Reuven Brenner identify the three types of market participant. ‘Investors’ are preoccupied with future scarcity and so defer income. Because uncertainty exposes the investor to the risk of loss, investors wish to minimise uncertainty at the cost of potential profits, this is the basis of classical investment theory. ‘Gamblers’ will bet on an outcome taking odds that have been agreed on by society, such as with a sporting bet or in a casino, and relates to de Moivre’s and Montmort’s ‘taming of chance’. ‘Speculators’ bet on a mis-calculation of the odds quoted by society and the reason why speculators are regarded as socially questionable is that they have opinions that are explicitly at odds with the consensus: they are practitioners who rebel against a theoretical ‘Truth’. This is captured in Arjun Appadurai’s argument that the leading agents in modern finance believe in their capacity to channel the workings of chance to win in the games dominated by cultures of control . . . [they] are not those who wish to “tame chance” but those who wish to use chance to animate the otherwise deterministic play of risk [quantifiable uncertainty]”.

In the context of Pragmatism, financial speculators embody pluralism, a concept essential to Pragmatic thinking and an antidote to the problem of radical uncertainty. Appadurai was motivated to study finance by Marcel Mauss’ essay Le Don (The Gift), exploring the moral force behind reciprocity in primitive and archaic societies and goes on to say that the contemporary financial speculator is “betting on the obligation of return”, and this is the fundamental axiom of contemporary finance. David Graeber (Debt The First 5,000 Years) also recognises the fundamental position reciprocity has in finance, but where as Appadurai recognises the importance of reciprocity in the presence of uncertainty, Graeber essentially ignores uncertainty in his analysis that ends with the conclusion that “we don’t ‘all’ have to pay our debts”. In advocating that reciprocity need not be honoured, Graeber is not just challenging contemporary capitalism but also the foundations of the civitas, based on equality and reciprocity. The origins of Graeber’s argument are in the first half of the nineteenth century. In 1836 John Stuart Mill defined political economy as being concerned with [man] solely as a being who desires to possess wealth, and who is capable of judging of the comparative efficacy of means for obtaining that end.

In Principles of Political Economy With Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy, Mill defended Thomas Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population, which focused on scarcity. Mill was writing at a time when Europe was struck by the Cholera pandemic of 1829–1851 and the famines of 1845–1851 and while Lord Tennyson was describing nature as “red in tooth and claw”. At this time, society’s fear of uncertainty seems to have been replaced by a fear of scarcity, and these standards of objectivity dominated economic thought through the twentieth century. Almost a hundred years after Mill, Lionel Robbins defined economics as “the science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses”. Dichotomies emerge in the aftermath of the Cartesian revolution that aims to remove doubt from philosophy. Theory and practice, subject and object, facts and values, means and ends are all separated. In this environment ex cathedra norms, in particular utility (profit) maximisation, encroach on commercial practice.

In order to set boundaries on commercial behaviour motivated by profit maximisation, particularly when market uncertainty returned after the Nixon shock of 1971, society imposes regulations on practice. As a consequence, two competing ethics, functional Consequential ethics guiding market practices and regulatory Deontological ethics attempting stabilise the system, vie for supremacy. It is in this debilitating competition between two essentially theoretical ethical frameworks that we offer an explanation for the Financial Crisis of 2007-2009: profit maximisation, not speculation, is destabilising in the presence of radical uncertainty and regulation cannot keep up with motivated profit maximisers who can justify their actions through abstract mathematical models that bare little resemblance to actual markets. An implication of reorienting financial economics to focus on the markets as centres of ‘communicative action’ is that markets could become self-regulating, in the same way that the legal or medical spheres are self-regulated through professions. This is not a ‘libertarian’ argument based on freeing the Consequential ethic from a Deontological brake. Rather it argues that being a market participant entails restricting norms on the agent such as sincerity and truth telling that support knowledge creation, of asset prices, within a broader objective of social cohesion. This immediately calls into question the legitimacy of algorithmic/high- frequency trading that seems an anathema in regard to the principles of communicative action.

Fundamental Theorem of Asset Pricing: Tautological Meeting of Mathematical Martingale and Financial Arbitrage by the Measure of Probability.


The Fundamental Theorem of Asset Pricing (FTAP hereafter) has two broad tenets, viz.

1. A market admits no arbitrage, if and only if, the market has a martingale measure.

2. Every contingent claim can be hedged, if and only if, the martingale measure is unique.

The FTAP is a theorem of mathematics, and the use of the term ‘measure’ in its statement places the FTAP within the theory of probability formulated by Andrei Kolmogorov (Foundations of the Theory of Probability) in 1933. Kolmogorov’s work took place in a context captured by Bertrand Russell, who observed that

It is important to realise the fundamental position of probability in science. . . . As to what is meant by probability, opinions differ.

In the 1920s the idea of randomness, as distinct from a lack of information, was becoming substantive in the physical sciences because of the emergence of the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics. In the social sciences, Frank Knight argued that uncertainty was the only source of profit and the concept was pervading John Maynard Keynes’ economics (Robert Skidelsky Keynes the return of the master).

Two mathematical theories of probability had become ascendant by the late 1920s. Richard von Mises (brother of the Austrian economist Ludwig) attempted to lay down the axioms of classical probability within a framework of Empiricism, the ‘frequentist’ or ‘objective’ approach. To counter–balance von Mises, the Italian actuary Bruno de Finetti presented a more Pragmatic approach, characterised by his claim that “Probability does not exist” because it was only an expression of the observer’s view of the world. This ‘subjectivist’ approach was closely related to the less well-known position taken by the Pragmatist Frank Ramsey who developed an argument against Keynes’ Realist interpretation of probability presented in the Treatise on Probability.

Kolmogorov addressed the trichotomy of mathematical probability by generalising so that Realist, Empiricist and Pragmatist probabilities were all examples of ‘measures’ satisfying certain axioms. In doing this, a random variable became a function while an expectation was an integral: probability became a branch of Analysis, not Statistics. Von Mises criticised Kolmogorov’s generalised framework as un-necessarily complex. About a decade and a half back, the physicist Edwin Jaynes (Probability Theory The Logic Of Science) champions Leonard Savage’s subjectivist Bayesianism as having a “deeper conceptual foundation which allows it to be extended to a wider class of applications, required by current problems of science”.

The objections to measure theoretic probability for empirical scientists can be accounted for as a lack of physicality. Frequentist probability is based on the act of counting; subjectivist probability is based on a flow of information, which, following Claude Shannon, is now an observable entity in Empirical science. Measure theoretic probability is based on abstract mathematical objects unrelated to sensible phenomena. However, the generality of Kolmogorov’s approach made it flexible enough to handle problems that emerged in physics and engineering during the Second World War and his approach became widely accepted after 1950 because it was practically more useful.

In the context of the first statement of the FTAP, a ‘martingale measure’ is a probability measure, usually labelled Q, such that the (real, rather than nominal) price of an asset today, X0, is the expectation, using the martingale measure, of its (real) price in the future, XT. Formally,

X0 = EQ XT

The abstract probability distribution Q is defined so that this equality exists, not on any empirical information of historical prices or subjective judgement of future prices. The only condition placed on the relationship that the martingale measure has with the ‘natural’, or ‘physical’, probability measures usually assigned the label P, is that they agree on what is possible.

The term ‘martingale’ in this context derives from doubling strategies in gambling and it was introduced into mathematics by Jean Ville in a development of von Mises’ work. The idea that asset prices have the martingale property was first proposed by Benoit Mandelbrot in response to an early formulation of Eugene Fama’s Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH), the two concepts being combined by Fama. For Mandelbrot and Fama the key consequence of prices being martingales was that the current price was independent of the future price and technical analysis would not prove profitable in the long run. In developing the EMH there was no discussion on the nature of the probability under which assets are martingales, and it is often assumed that the expectation is calculated under the natural measure. While the FTAP employs modern terminology in the context of value-neutrality, the idea of equating a current price with a future, uncertain, has ethical ramifications.

The other technical term in the first statement of the FTAP, arbitrage, has long been used in financial mathematics. Liber Abaci Fibonacci (Laurence Sigler Fibonaccis Liber Abaci) discusses ‘Barter of Merchandise and Similar Things’, 20 arms of cloth are worth 3 Pisan pounds and 42 rolls of cotton are similarly worth 5 Pisan pounds; it is sought how many rolls of cotton will be had for 50 arms of cloth. In this case there are three commodities, arms of cloth, rolls of cotton and Pisan pounds, and Fibonacci solves the problem by having Pisan pounds ‘arbitrate’, or ‘mediate’ as Aristotle might say, between the other two commodities.

Within neo-classical economics, the Law of One Price was developed in a series of papers between 1954 and 1964 by Kenneth Arrow, Gérard Debreu and Lionel MacKenzie in the context of general equilibrium, in particular the introduction of the Arrow Security, which, employing the Law of One Price, could be used to price any asset. It was on this principle that Black and Scholes believed the value of the warrants could be deduced by employing a hedging portfolio, in introducing their work with the statement that “it should not be possible to make sure profits” they were invoking the arbitrage argument, which had an eight hundred year history. In the context of the FTAP, ‘an arbitrage’ has developed into the ability to formulate a trading strategy such that the probability, under a natural or martingale measure, of a loss is zero, but the probability of a positive profit is not.

To understand the connection between the financial concept of arbitrage and the mathematical idea of a martingale measure, consider the most basic case of a single asset whose current price, X0, can take on one of two (present) values, XTD < XTU, at time T > 0, in the future. In this case an arbitrage would exist if X0 ≤ XTD < XTU: buying the asset now, at a price that is less than or equal to the future pay-offs, would lead to a possible profit at the end of the period, with the guarantee of no loss. Similarly, if XTD < XTU ≤ X0, short selling the asset now, and buying it back would also lead to an arbitrage. So, for there to be no arbitrage opportunities we require that

XTD < X0 < XTU

This implies that there is a number, 0 < q < 1, such that

X0 = XTD + q(XTU − XTD)

= qXTU + (1−q)XTD

The price now, X0, lies between the future prices, XTU and XTD, in the ratio q : (1 − q) and represents some sort of ‘average’. The first statement of the FTAP can be interpreted simply as “the price of an asset must lie between its maximum and minimum possible (real) future price”.

If X0 < XTD ≤ XTU we have that q < 0 whereas if XTD ≤ XTU < X0 then q > 1, and in both cases q does not represent a probability measure which by Kolmogorov’s axioms, must lie between 0 and 1. In either of these cases an arbitrage exists and a trader can make a riskless profit, the market involves ‘turpe lucrum’. This account gives an insight as to why James Bernoulli, in his moral approach to probability, considered situations where probabilities did not sum to 1, he was considering problems that were pathological not because they failed the rules of arithmetic but because they were unfair. It follows that if there are no arbitrage opportunities then quantity q can be seen as representing the ‘probability’ that the XTU price will materialise in the future. Formally

X0 = qXTU + (1−q) XTD ≡ EQ XT

The connection between the financial concept of arbitrage and the mathematical object of a martingale is essentially a tautology: both statements mean that the price today of an asset must lie between its future minimum and maximum possible value. This first statement of the FTAP was anticipated by Frank Ramsey when he defined ‘probability’ in the Pragmatic sense of ‘a degree of belief’ and argues that measuring ‘degrees of belief’ is through betting odds. On this basis he formulates some axioms of probability, including that a probability must lie between 0 and 1. He then goes on to say that

These are the laws of probability, …If anyone’s mental condition violated these laws, his choice would depend on the precise form in which the options were offered him, which would be absurd. He could have a book made against him by a cunning better and would then stand to lose in any event.

This is a Pragmatic argument that identifies the absence of the martingale measure with the existence of arbitrage and today this forms the basis of the standard argument as to why arbitrages do not exist: if they did the, other market participants would bankrupt the agent who was mis-pricing the asset. This has become known in philosophy as the ‘Dutch Book’ argument and as a consequence of the fact/value dichotomy this is often presented as a ‘matter of fact’. However, ignoring the fact/value dichotomy, the Dutch book argument is an alternative of the ‘Golden Rule’– “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”– it is infused with the moral concepts of fairness and reciprocity (Jeffrey Wattles The Golden Rule).

FTAP is the ethical concept of Justice, capturing the social norms of reciprocity and fairness. This is significant in the context of Granovetter’s discussion of embeddedness in economics. It is conventional to assume that mainstream economic theory is ‘undersocialised’: agents are rational calculators seeking to maximise an objective function. The argument presented here is that a central theorem in contemporary economics, the FTAP, is deeply embedded in social norms, despite being presented as an undersocialised mathematical object. This embeddedness is a consequence of the origins of mathematical probability being in the ethical analysis of commercial contracts: the feudal shackles are still binding this most modern of economic theories.

Ramsey goes on to make an important point

Having any definite degree of belief implies a certain measure of consistency, namely willingness to bet on a given proposition at the same odds for any stake, the stakes being measured in terms of ultimate values. Having degrees of belief obeying the laws of probability implies a further measure of consistency, namely such a consistency between the odds acceptable on different propositions as shall prevent a book being made against you.

Ramsey is arguing that an agent needs to employ the same measure in pricing all assets in a market, and this is the key result in contemporary derivative pricing. Having identified the martingale measure on the basis of a ‘primal’ asset, it is then applied across the market, in particular to derivatives on the primal asset but the well-known result that if two assets offer different ‘market prices of risk’, an arbitrage exists. This explains why the market-price of risk appears in the Radon-Nikodym derivative and the Capital Market Line, it enforces Ramsey’s consistency in pricing. The second statement of the FTAP is concerned with incomplete markets, which appear in relation to Arrow-Debreu prices. In mathematics, in the special case that there are as many, or more, assets in a market as there are possible future, uncertain, states, a unique pricing vector can be deduced for the market because of Cramer’s Rule. If the elements of the pricing vector satisfy the axioms of probability, specifically each element is positive and they all sum to one, then the market precludes arbitrage opportunities. This is the case covered by the first statement of the FTAP. In the more realistic situation that there are more possible future states than assets, the market can still be arbitrage free but the pricing vector, the martingale measure, might not be unique. The agent can still be consistent in selecting which particular martingale measure they choose to use, but another agent might choose a different measure, such that the two do not agree on a price. In the context of the Law of One Price, this means that we cannot hedge, replicate or cover, a position in the market, such that the portfolio is riskless. The significance of the second statement of the FTAP is that it tells us that in the sensible world of imperfect knowledge and transaction costs, a model within the framework of the FTAP cannot give a precise price. When faced with incompleteness in markets, agents need alternative ways to price assets and behavioural techniques have come to dominate financial theory. This feature was realised in The Port Royal Logic when it recognised the role of transaction costs in lotteries.

Financial Forward Rate “Strings” (Didactic 1)


Imagine that Julie wants to invest $1 for two years. She can devise two possible strategies. The first one is to put the money in a one-year bond at an interest rate r1. At the end of the year, she must take her money and find another one-year bond, with interest rate r1/2 which is the interest rate in one year on a loan maturing in two years. The final payoff of this strategy is simply (1 + r1)(1 + r1/2). The problem is that Julie cannot know for sure what will be the one-period interest rate r1/2 of next year. Thus, she can only estimate a return by guessing the expectation of r1/2.

Instead of making two separate investments of one year each, Julie could invest her money today in a bond that pays off in two years with interest rate r2. The final payoff is then (1 + r2)2. This second strategy is riskless as she knows for sure her return. Now, this strategy can be reinterpreted along the line of the first strategy as follows. It consists in investing for one year at the rate r1 and for the second year at a forward rate f2. The forward rate is like the r1/2 rate, with the essential difference that it is guaranteed : by buying the two-year bond, Julie can “lock in” an interest rate f2 for the second year.

This simple example illustrates that the set of all possible bonds traded on the market is equivalent to the so-called forward rate curve. The forward rate f(t,x) is thus the interest rate that can be contracted at time t for instantaneously riskless borrowing 1 or lending at time t + x. It is thus a function or curve of the time-to-maturity x2, where x plays the role of a “length” variable, that deforms with time t. Its knowledge is completely equivalent to the set of bond prices P(t,x) at time t that expire at time t + x. The shape of the forward rate curve f(t,x) incessantly fluctuates as a function of time t. These fluctuations are due to a combination of factors, including future expectation of the short-term interest rates, liquidity preferences, market segmentation and trading. It is obvious that the forward rate f (t, x+δx) for δx small can not be very different from f (t,x). It is thus tempting to see f(t,x) as a “string” characterized by a kind of tension which prevents too large local deformations that would not be financially acceptable. This superficial analogy is in the follow up of the repetitious intersections between finance and physics, starting with Bachelier who solved the diffusion equation of Brownian motion as a model of stock market price fluctuations five years before Einstein, continuing with the discovery of the relevance of Lévy laws for cotton price fluctuations by Mandelbrot that can be compared with the present interest of such power laws for the description of physical and natural phenomena. The present investigation delves into how to formalize mathematically this analogy between the forward rate curve and a string. We formulate the term structure of interest rates as the solution of a stochastic partial differential equation (SPDE), following the physical analogy of a continuous curve (string) whose shape moves stochastically through time.

The equation of motion of macroscopic physical strings is derived from conservation laws. The fundamental equations of motion of microscopic strings formulated to describe the fundamental particles derive from global symmetry principles and dualities between long-range and short-range descriptions. Are there similar principles that can guide the determination of the equations of motion of the more down-to-earth financial forward rate “strings”?

Suppose that in the middle ages, before Copernicus and Galileo, the Earth really was stationary at the centre of the universe, and only began moving later on. Imagine that during the nineteenth century, when everyone believed classical physics to be true, that it really was true, and quantum phenomena were non-existent. These are not philosophical musings, but an attempt to portray how physics might look if it actually behaved like the financial markets. Indeed, the financial world is such that any insight is almost immediately used to trade for a profit. As the insight spreads among traders, the “universe” changes accordingly. As G. Soros has pointed out, market players are “actors observing their own deeds”. As E. Derman, head of quantitative strategies at Goldman Sachs, puts it, in physics you are playing against God, who does not change his mind very often. In finance, you are playing against Gods creatures, whose feelings are ephemeral, at best unstable, and the news on which they are based keep streaming in. Value clearly derives from human beings, while mass, charge and electromagnetism apparently do not. This has led to suggestions that a fruitful framework to study finance and economy is to use evolutionary models inspired from biology and genetics.

This does not however guide us much for the determination of “fundamental” equa- tions, if any. Here, we propose to use the condition of absence of arbitrage opportunity and show that this leads to strong constraints on the structure of the governing equations. The basic idea is that, if there are arbitrage opportunities (free lunches), they cannot live long or must be quite subtle, otherwise traders would act on them and arbitrage them away. The no-arbitrage condition is an idealization of a self-consistent dynamical state of the market resulting from the incessant actions of the traders (ar- bitragers). It is not the out-of-fashion equilibrium approximation sometimes described but rather embodies a very subtle cooperative organization of the market.

We consider this condition as the fundamental backbone for the theory. The idea to impose this requirement is not new and is in fact the prerequisite of most models developed in the academic finance community. Modigliani and Miller [here and here] have indeed emphasized the critical role played by arbitrage in determining the value of securities. It is sometimes suggested that transaction costs and other market imperfections make irrelevant the no-arbitrage condition. Let us address briefly this question.

Transaction costs in option replication and other hedging activities have been extensively investigated since they (or other market “imperfections”) clearly disturb the risk-neutral argument and set option theory back a few decades. Transaction costs induce, for obvious reasons, dynamic incompleteness, thus preventing valuation as we know it since Black and Scholes. However, the most efficient dynamic hedgers (market makers) incur essentially no transaction costs when owning options. These specialized market makers compete with each other to provide liquidity in option instruments, and maintain inventories in them. They rationally limit their dynamic replication to their residual exposure, not their global exposure. In addition, the fact that they do not hold options until maturity greatly reduces their costs of dynamic hedging. They have an incentive in the acceleration of financial intermediation. Furthermore, as options are rarely replicated until maturity, the expected transaction costs of the short options depend mostly on the dynamics of the order flow in the option markets – not on the direct costs of transacting. For the efficient operators (and those operators only), markets are more dynamically complete than anticipated. This is not true for a second category of traders, those who merely purchase or sell financial instruments that are subjected to dynamic hedging. They, accordingly, neither are equipped for dynamic hedging, nor have the need for it, thanks to the existence of specialized and more efficient market makers. The examination of their transaction costs in the event of their decision to dynamically replicate their options is of no true theoretical contribution. A second important point is that the existence of transaction costs should not be invoked as an excuse for disregarding the no-arbitrage condition, but, rather should be constructively invoked to study its impacts on the models…..

Forward Pricing in Commodity Markets. Note Quote.


We use the Hilbert space

Hα := {f ∈ AC(R+,C) : ∫0 |f′(x)|2 eαx dx < ∞}

where AC(R+,C) denotes the space of complex-valued absolutely continuous functions on R+. We endow Hα with the scalar product ⟨f,g⟩α := f(0) g(0) + ∫0 f′(x) g(x) eαx dx, and denote the associated norm by ∥ · ∥αFilipović shows that (Hα, ∥ · ∥α) is a separable Hilbert space. This space has been used in Filipović for term structure modelling of bonds and many mathematical properties have been derived therein. We will frequently refer to Hα as the Filipović space.

We next introduce our dynamics for the term structure of forward prices in a commodity market. Denote by f (t, x) the price at time t of a forward contract where time to delivery of the underlying commodity is x ≥ 0. We treat f as a stochastic process in time with values in the Filipović space Hα. More specifically, we assume that the process {f(t)}t≥0 follows the HJM-Musiela model which we formalize next. The Heath–Jarrow–Morton (HJM) framework is a general framework to model the evolution of interest rate curve – instantaneous forward rate curve in particular (as opposed to simple forward rates). When the volatility and drift of the instantaneous forward rate are assumed to be deterministic, this is known as the Gaussian Heath–Jarrow–Morton (HJM) model of forward rates. For direct modeling of simple forward rates the Brace–Gatarek–Musiela model represents an example.

On a complete filtered probability space (Ω,{Ft}t≥0,F,P), where the filtration is assumed to be complete and right continuous, we work with an Hα-valued Lévy process {L(t)}t≥0 for the construction of Hα-valued Lévy processes). In mathematical finance, Lévy processes are becoming extremely fashionable because they can describe the observed reality of financial markets in a more accurate way than models based on Brownian motion. In the ‘real’ world, we observe that asset price processes have jumps or spikes, and risk managers have to take them into consideration. Moreover, the empirical distribution of asset returns exhibits fat tails and skewness, behavior that deviates from normality. Hence, models that accurately fit return distributions are essential for the estimation of profit and loss (P&L) distributions. Similarly, in the ‘risk-neutral’ world, we observe that implied volatilities are constant neither across strike nor across maturities as stipulated by the Black and Scholes. Therefore, traders need models that can capture the behavior of the implied volatility smiles more accurately, in order to handle the risk of trades. Lévy processes provide us with the appropriate tools to adequately and consistently describe all these observations, both in the ‘real’ and in the ‘risk-neutral’ world. We assume that L has finite variance and mean equal to zero, and denote its covariance operator by Q. Let f0 ∈ Hα and f be the solution of the stochastic partial differential equation (SPDE)

df(t) = ∂xf(t)dt + β(t)dt + Ψ(t)dL(t), t≥0,f(0)=f

where β ∈ L ((Ω × R+, P, P ⊗ λ), Hα), P being the predictable σ-field, and

Ψ ∈ L2L(Hα) := ∪T>0 L2L,T (Hα)

where the latter space is defined as in Peszat and Zabczyk. For t ≥ 0, denote by Ut the shift semigroup on Hα defined by Utf = f(t + ·) for f ∈ Hα. It is shown in Filipović that {Ut}t≥0 is a C0-semigroup on Hα, with generator ∂x. Recall, that any C0-semigroup admits the bound ∥Utop ≤ Mewt for some w, M > 0 and any t ≥ 0. Here, ∥ · ∥op denotes the operator norm. Thus s → Ut−s β(s) is Bochner-integrable (The Bochner integral, named for Salomon Bochner, extends the definition of Lebesgue integral to functions that take values in a Banach space, as the limit of integrals of simple functions). and s → Ut−s Ψ(s) is integrable with respect to L. The unique mild solution of SPDE is

f(t) = Utf0 + ∫t0 Ut−s β(s)ds+ ∫t0 Ut−s Ψ(s)dL(s)

If we model the forward price dynamics f in a risk-neutral setting, the drift coefficient β(t) will naturally be zero in order to ensure the (local) martingale property (In probability theory, a martingale is a model of a fair game where knowledge of past events never helps predict the mean of the future winnings and only the current event matters. In particular, a martingale is a sequence of random variables (i.e., a stochastic process) for which, at a particular time in the realized sequence, the expectation of the next value in the sequence is equal to the present observed value even given knowledge of all prior observed values.) of the process t → f(t, τ − t), where τ ≥ t is the time of delivery of the forward. In this case, the probability P is to be interpreted as the equivalent martingale measure (also called the pricing measure). However, with a non-zero drift, the forward model is stated under the market probability and β can be related to the risk premium in the market. In energy markets like power and gas, the forward contracts deliver over a period, and forward prices can be expressed by integral operators on the Filipović space applied on f. The dynamics of f can also be considered as a model for the forward rate in fixed-income theory. This is indeed the traditional application area and point of analysis of the SPDE. Note, however, that the original no-arbitrage condition in the HJM approach for interest rate markets is different from the no-arbitrage condition. If f is understood as the forward rate modelled in the risk-neutral setting, there is a no-arbitrage relationship between the drift β, the volatility σ and the covariance of the driving noise L.