Society Investigating Mathematical Mind-Expanding Recreations
This is a summary of what was presented and discussed at the May 27th SIMMER meeting, along with some problems and questions to think about.
But what are all these fancy new financial objects, and why are the banks and investment companies hiring hordes of fresh PhD's in math and physics (the so called `rocket scientists')? What are all these analysts doing?
To try to get some idea let's look at a couple of very simple examples. Simple as they are, these models are actually pretty close to the real models that are being used on Bay Street and Wall Street.
You also have the option to put your money in the bank and earn interest. This involves no risk at all and $1 invested becomes $(1+r) at the end of the year. It is natural to assume that d<1+r<u because if 1+r>u there is no point in buying the stock, because you can do better with the bank for sure, and if 1+r< d then there is no point putting your money in the bank, because you can do better with the stock for sure.
Now a guy in a sharkskin suit makes you an offer. Instead of the stock, he will sell you a call option on the stock with strike price K. That means that if after 1 year the stock is worth S1>K, you can cash it in for S1-K. Otherwise it is not worth anything. In other words in one year the call option will be worth
V1=max(S1 -K, 0).(Note that K should be some number between dS0 and uS0 or this is a bit silly.) Now he says look, the probability that the stock will be worth S1(u)=uS0 is p, in which case the payoff is V1(u)=uS0 -K, and the probability that stock will be worth S1(d)=dS0 is 1-p in which case the payoff is V1(d)=0. So the expected payoff is
p V1(u) + (1-p)V1(d) .Of course a dollar a year from now is really worth 1/(1+r) dollars now, so the price now should be
He offers to sell you the option for one half of that.
It looks like a great deal. Should you take it?
Suppose your initial wealth is $V0 and you are wondering whether to go for it. You actually have a completely different choice. You could buy shares of the stock and put the rest, in the bank. A year later you would have
if the stock went up, and
if the stock went down.
On the other hand if you put the V0 into call options it is worth V1(u) if the stock goes up, and V1(d) if the stock goes down.
Let's try something. We have been given S0, u, d and r and we can choose and V0. So let's match things after one year.
This is two equations in two unknowns, so we can solve it and the answer is
where q = (1+r-d)/(u-d).
If the price of the call option was more than V0, why would you bother? You would do better for sure buying shares and putting the difference in the bank.
On the other hand if the price of the call option was less than V0 then who would be so stupid as to sell them when they could do better for sure borrowing money and investing in the stock.
So the fair price for the option has to be V0. You say it is the arbitrage price because if the price were any different many people in sharkskin suits (known as arbitrageurs) would have a field day making money on the difference.
But now we have two different answers for the price of the option, the expectation price and the arbitrage price. And the arbitrage price doesn't even depend on the probabilities p and 1-p, but uses some new `effective' probabilities q and 1-q which only depend on the interest rate and possible price changes. These are called the risk neutral probabilities.
The market forces the arbitrage price to be the true price, so the strange conclusion is that if p is large enough, then the guys offer of half the expectation price is a bad deal!
Question 2. A stock price follows the following tree.
It starts at $20 and after three months either goes up to $22 or down to $18. If it went to $22 then three months later it either goes up to $24.2 or down to $19.8. If it went down to $18 then three months later it either goes up to $19.8 or down to $16.2. The interest rate is still 12% per year. What is the value of an option to buy the stock for $21 in six months?
Question 3. A stock price is currently $20 and it is known that at the end of three months it will be either $22 or $20 or $18. The interest rate is 12% per annum. Can you determine the value today of an option to buy the stock after three months for $21?
The simplest model which is reasonable is called geometric or exponential Brownian motion. Let's try to describe it. The main idea here is that the market is made up of a lot of very little investors, so price movements that we observe are sums of a great number of random small movements. From probability we know that a random quantity which is the sum of a lot of small random quantities always has a Gaussian (or Normal) disribution. But also the stock price grows at some rate . All prices also have to be relative to the total price. So in summary we expect
where B(t+h)-B(t) are mean 0 normal random variables. Since the variance of a sum of independent random variables is the sum of the variances, we have to have that the variance of B(t+h)-B(t) is linear in h. plays the role of the constant and it is called the volatility. So B(t) itself is a random function, called Brownian motion and it is such that the increments B(t+h)-B(t) are normal with mean zero and variance one, and any two such increments which are not overlapping are independent. If you take the limit of the equation you get
called a stochastic differential equation.
Not bad, eh?
Stochastic differential equations are different from ordinary differential equations because the function B(t) turns out to be non-differentiable at every single point with probability one. So the equation is really strange and it took until the 1950's before people even started to make sense of it. In fact these functions are so strange that the ordinary rules of calculus, like the chain rule and the product rule and integration by parts are just not true. But there are analogues. For example the chain rule for Brownian motion turns out to be
df(B(t)) = f'(B(t)) dB(t) + (1/2) f"(B(t)) dt.In normal calculus the last term wouldn't be there. This is called Ito's formula.
You can price a call option with strike price K at time T by analogy with the discrete time case. There is risk neutral probability distribution under which the arbitrage price of the option is
Using Ito's formula you can check that this can be determined by solving a certain partial differential equation. In this lucky case, one can even write down the solution to this equation. Black, Scholes and Merton did this in the 1970's, and the fact that they finally managed to compute the fair price for an option meant that the whole business could finally get rolling. It's been growing like crazy as more and more fancier types of derivatives are invented, and Merton and Scholes went on to win the Nobel prize in Economics for their work.
Question 4. How would you go about constructing a continuous function which was nowhere differentiable? (Hint: Think fractals.)
Switch to text-only version (no graphics)
Access printed version in PostScript format (requires PostScript printer)
Go to SIMMER Home Page
Go to The Fields Institute Home Page
Go to University of Toronto Mathematics Network Home Page