A Quick Review – the Math Behind the Black Scholes Model

 

This is a high-level quick review on the derivation of the Black Scholes model, i.e., I will not spend time on putting down rigorous definitions or discussing the assumptions behind the equations.They are definitely important, but I’d rather focus on one thing at a time.

Suppose the change of a stock’s price dS_{t} follows a geometric Brownian motion process:

dS_{t} = \mu S_{t}dt + \sigma S_{t}dW_{t},        (1)

Where \mu is the drift constant and \sigma is the volatility constant.

According to Ito’s Lemma (Newtonian calculus doesn’t work here because of the existance of stochastic term W_{t}), the price of an option of this stock, which is a function C of S and t, must satisfy:

dC(S,t) = (\mu S_{t} \frac{\partial C}{\partial S} + \frac{\partial C}{\partial t} + \frac{1}{2} \sigma^2 S^2 \frac{\partial^2 C}{\partial S^2}) dt + \sigma S_{t} \frac{\partial C}{\partial S} dW_{t},        (2)

Now theoretically, instead of buying an option, we could replicate the payoff of an option by actively and seamlessly allocating our money between a risk-free asset B_{t} and the stock underlying said option. Given the no-arbitrage assumption, the value of this replicating portfolio, P_{t}, should be exactly the same as the option price. Therefore we have:

P_{t} = a_{t}B_{t} + b_{t}S_{t},        (3)

dP_{t} = a_{t}dB_{t} + b_{t}dS_{t}

= ra_{t}B_{t}dt + b_{t}(\mu S_{t}dt + \sigma S_{t}dW_{t})        replace dS_{t} with (1)

= (ra_{t}B_{t} + b_{t}\mu S_{t})dt + b_{t}\sigma S_{t}dW_{t}, and        (4)

dP_{t} = dC_{t},        (5)

where a and b represent the portions of money allocated in each asset; r is the risk-free rate.

Knowing (5), we can map some terms in (2) and (4) to get

b_{t} = \frac{\partial C}{\partial S}, and        (6)

ra_{t}B{t} = \frac{\partial C}{\partial t} + \frac{1}{2}\sigma^2 S^2_{t}\frac{\partial^2 C}{\partial S^2}        (7)

Feed (6) and (7) into (3), we get the Black Scholes partial differential equation:

rC_{t} = rS_{t}\frac{\partial C}{\partial S} + \frac{\partial C}{\partial t} + \frac{1}{2}\sigma^2 S^2_{t}\frac{\partial^2 C}{\partial S^2}        (8)

Apparently, a couple of Nobel Laureates solved this equation here, and now we have the Black Scholes pricing model for European options, which means if K is the strike price, C(S,T) = max(S-K, 0), C(0, t) = 0 for all t and C(S, t) approaches S as S approaches infinity.

C(S,t) = S_{t}\Phi(d_{1}) - e^{-r(T-t)}K\Phi(d_{2})        (9)

where

d_{1} = \frac{\ln{\frac{S_{t}}{K}} + (\frac{r-\sigma^2}{2}) (T-t)}{\sigma\sqrt{T-t}}

d_{2} = d_{1} - \sigma\sqrt{T-t}

\Phi{(.)} is the CDF of the standard normal distribution.

Using this general approach, we should be able to model any derivatives as long as we have some basic assumptions about the underlying process. Of course, it’s pointless to use these models in a dogmatic way because almost all of the assumptions behind them are not true. An investment professional’s job is not to follow the textbook and blindly apply the formula in the real world and hope it sticks, instead it’s to investigate the discrepancies between the theoretical model and empirical evidences and figure out which assumptions are violated and if so, can we translate these violations into trading opportunities.

Roy

An Empirical Mean Reversion Test on VIX Futures

VIX mean reversion trade gets popular when the market experiences big ups and downs. You hear a lot of talks about how much money people make from trading VXX, XIV and their leveraged equivalents. However, is VIX truly mean reverting, or it seems more lucrative than it is just because people only like to talk about it when they make money and keep quiet when they lose?

In this post I use daily returns of S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures Index from December 2005 to August 2015 (2438 observations) to find if there’s empirical evidence that supports short-term VIX MR. It’s the most suitable vehicle for this test becuase there’s no instrument that tracks VIX spot and it is the benchmark for VXX and XIV.

VIX ST Futures Index holds VIX 1-month and 2-month futures contracts and rolls them on daily basis. Its performance suffers from contango effect like commodity futures ETFs do but it’s an inevitable cost in this case.

To find out if extreme VIX returns lead to strong short-term rebound, I group all daily returns by deciles and summarize the distributions of the accumulative future returns of each group up to 5 trading days (1 week). If VIX is truly ST MR, we should see the future returns following the 1st group (lowest) significantly higher than 0 on average, and the returns following the 10th group (highest) significantly lower than 0 on average. Future returns that go beyond the sample time period are recorded as 0.

Daily_Ret_Deciles

As shown above, group 1 and group 10 are the two groups we want to focus on. If someone can systematically make money by putting in MR trade on VIX, we should see the next day (or next 2, 3, maybe 5 days) returns following these two groups distributed like this:

Theoretical_Dist

The actual data look like this:

Day_1_Ret_Dist Day_5_Ret_Dist

It’s hard to spot any major difference between group 1 and 10 on the next day. However, on the 5th day, accumulated returns in group 1 largely outperform group 10. To better illustrate, I perform t-test on both groups from day 1 to day 5, as reported below (H0 = average return equals 0).

Capture

As it turns out, future returns in Group 1 systematically outperform Group 10 within the next 5 days. The results are not blessed by overwhelmingly strong t-stats and p-values but it’s hard to argue that we are looking at random noises here. Additionally, this test is done by end of day prices. Intraday movements, which possibly constitute the bulk of VIX MR trades, are completely ignored by this test. Therefore the results we see are likely a mitigated version of market reality.

Roy

Constructing an Alpha Portfolio with Factor Tilts

In this post I’d like to show an example of constructing a monthly-rebalanced long-short portfolio to exploit alpha signals while controlling for factor exposures.

This example covers the time period between March 2005 and 2014. I use 477 stocks from S&P500 universe (data source: Quandl) and Fama-French 3 factors (data source: Kenneth French’s website) to conduct backtests. My alpha signal is simply the cross-sectional price level of all stocks – overweighting stocks that are low on price level and underweighting the ones that are high. By doing this I’m effectively targeting the liquidity factor so it worked out pretty well during the 2008 crisis. But that’s beside the point, for this post is more about the process and techniques than a skyward PnL curve.

At each rebalance, I rank all stocks based on the dollar value of their shares, then assign weights to them based on their ranks inversely, i.e., expensive stocks are getting lower weights and vice versa. This gives me naive exposure to my alpha signal. However, my strategy is probably exposed to common factors in the market. By the end of the day, I could have a working alpha idea and a bad performance driven by untended factor bets at the same time. This situation calls for a technique that gives me control for factor exposures while still keeping the portfolio close to the naive alpha bets.

Good news: the basic quadratic programming function is just the tool for the job – its objective function can minimize the sum of squared weight differences from to the naive portfolio while the linear constraints stretching factor exposures where we want them to be. For this study I backtested 3 scenarios: naive alpha portfolio, factor neutral portfolio and a portfolio that is neutral on MKT and HML factor but tilts towards SMB (with a desired factor loading at 0.5). As an example, the chart below shows the expected factor loadings of each 3 backtests on the 50th rebalance (84 in total). Regression coefficients are estimated with 1-year weekly returns.

fct_expo

After the backtests, I got 3 time-series of monthly returns for 3 scenarios. Tables below show the results of regressing these returns on MKT, SMB and HML factors. All three strategies yield similar monthly alpha, but the neutral portfolio mitigated factor loadings from the naive strategy significantly, while the size tilt portfolio kept material exposure to the SMB factor.

Capture

Tables below summarize the annualized performance of these backtests. While the neutralized portfolio generates the lowest annualized alpha, it ranks the highest in terms of information ratio.

info_ratio

Interpretation: the naive and size portfolio gets penalized for having more of their returns driven by factor exposures, either unintended or intentional. The neutral portfolio, with slightly lower returns, gets a better information ratio for representing the “truer” performance of this particular alpha idea.

The idea above can be extend to multiple alpha strategies and dozens of factors, or even hundreds if the universe is large enough to make it feasible. The caveat is that there is such thing as too many factors and most of them don’t last in the long run (Hwang and Lu, 2007). It’s just not that easy to come across something that carries both statistical and economic significance.

Roy

Non-linear Twists in Stock & Bond Correlation

Stocks and bonds are negatively correlated. Translation: they must move against each other most of the time. Because intuitively, stocks bear higher risk than bonds so investors go to stocks when they want to take more risks and flee to bonds when they feel a storm is coming. Plus the numbers tell the same story, too – correlation coefficient between SPY and TLT from 2002 to 2015 is -0.42, year-over-year correlation on daily returns are:

corr_yoy

However, this effect was very week from 2004 to 2006. This makes sense because in a credit expansion like that, it was hard for any asset class to go down (except for cash, of course).

But this observation reveals that the conventional stock & bond correlation might be conditional or even deceptive. One might ask, is this stock & bond relationship significantly different in bull and bear markets? Does it also depend on market returns? Or does it just depend on market directions?

To keep it simple, I will stick to SPY and TLT daily returns. If I split my data into bull (2002-2007 & 2012-2015) and bear (2008-2011) periods, and divide each of them into two groups (market goes up & market goes down), then dice each group by quantiles of market returns, I will get:

corr_bull bear_corr

The graphs show that these two assets tend to dramatically move against each other when the market is going extremely up or down. Also this effect seems more pronounced when a bull market is having an up day or a bear market is having a down day. But there’s nothing significantly different between the bear and bull groups.

Next I can try not to split the data into bear & bull, instead I’ll just divide it by market direction, then quantile of performance.

cor1

This graph clearly shows that stocks & bonds mostly only move against each other when the market is having a extremely up or down day, either in a bull or bear market. Of course, one could argue that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy because big correlation coef’s feed on big inputs (large market movements), but in the chart the correlation coef’s do not change proportionally through quantiles, which confirms a non-linear relationship.

Roy

A Case of Ambiguous Definition

“Managers of government pension plans counter that they have longer investment horizons and can take greater risks. But most financial economists believe that the risks of stock investments grow, not shrink, with time.” – WSJ

This statement mentioned “risks” twice but they actually mean different things. Therefore the second sentence is correct by itself but cannot be used to reject the first one.

The first “risk” is timeless. The way it’s calculated always scales it down to 1 time unit, which is the time interval between any two data points in the sample.

Risk_1 = \sigma^2 = \frac{1}{N} \sum_{i=1}^{N}(R_i - \bar{R})^2

When “risk” is defined this way, a risky investment A and a less risky investment B have their returns look like this:

figure_1

The second “risk” is the same thing but gets scaled for N time units. It’s not how variance is defined but people use it because it has a practical interpolation (adjust for different time horizons).

Risk_2 = N * \sigma^2 = \sum_{i=1}^{N}(R_i - \bar{R})^2

Under this definition, the possible PnL paths for A and B look like this:

figure_2figure_3

A’s Monte Carlo result is wider than B, but both A and B’s “risk” by the second definition increases through time, while by the first definition never changed.

I have intentionally avoided mentioning time diversification because doing so would probably make things more confusing. For more details on this please see Chung, Smith and Wu (2009).

Roy

A New Post

First of all, apologies to anyone who were expecting new posts or left a comment here but didn’t get a reply from me. There were quite a few changes in my life and I simply had to move my time and energy on blogging somewhere else. Now I’m trying to get back to it.

Because of reasons I will avoid writing about specific investment strategies, factor descriptors or particular stocks. I will write more about my thoughts (or thoughts stolen from people smarter than me) on generic techniques and theories. In an attempt to be rigorous (or more realistically, less sloppy), I will try to stay on one main track: hypothesis -> logical explanations -> supporting data or observations. This time I will use math and programming to make sense of things instead of just getting results on paper.

Roy

The Power of Mass Deployment

The power of statistics emerges as the sample size grows. I know, it has been repeated multiple times in Stats 101, a bunch of youtube videos, or maybe Statistics for Dummies. But has it stopped people from making judgement calls on purely empirical basis? Statements like “I’ve seen it working x times, so it’s legit” or “it’s a bad indicator because I tried on several stocks and it didn’t work” don’t really make sense when you are living in a complex realm composed by incredible amount of data, multiple dimensions of reality and endless chain reactions such as public administration and stock investments.

To illustrate, I did a back-test using a simple combination of Bollinger Bands and MACD Indicator from 2004 to 2012. It’s an end-of-day, mean-reversion strategy with a price filter and a liquidity filter. After testing it on 30 random stocks listed on TSX, this is what I got.

Nope, not impressive. But it looks quite different if we deploy it to the entire market, which is about 2300 stocks listed on TSX (1400 after using survivor filter ).

Commission is not a concern. As shown below, most of the time the strategy only holds less than 2 stocks, not 200.

The real problem for implementing this strategy, for retail investors, is computing power. Gathering latest data, completing calculation and executing trades right before market closes every day precisely is very challenging for individuals. For big players, it’s liquidity. Because the strategy targets low liquidity segments, it can’t guarantee the trading volumes will be big enough for institutional traders.