Thursday, October 02, 2014

Barrier options under negative rates: complex numbers to the rescue

I stumbled upon an unexpected problem: the one touch barrier formula can break down under negative rates. While negative rates can sound fancy, they are actually quite real on some markets. Combined with relatively low volatilities, this makes the standard Black-Scholes one touch barrier formula blow up because somewhere the square root of a negative number is taken.

At first, I had the idea to just floor the number to 0. But then I needed to see if this rough approximation would be acceptable or not. So I relied on a TR-BDF2 discretization of the Black-Scholes PDE, where negative rates are not a problem.

Later, I was convinced that we ought to be able to find a closed form formula for the case of negative rates. I went back to the derivation of the formula, the book from Kwok is quite good on that. The closed form formula just stems from being the solution of an integral of the first passage time density (which is a simpler way to compute the one touch price than the PDE approach). It turns out that, then, the closed form solution to this integral with negative rates is just the same formula with complex numbers (there are actually some simplifications then).

It is a bit uncommon to use the cumulative normal distribution on complex numbers, but the error function on complex numbers is more popular: it's actually even on the wikipedia page of the error function. And it can be computed very quickly with machine precision thanks to the Faddeeva library.

With this simple closed form formula, there is no need anymore for an approximation. I wrote a small paper around this here.

Later a collegue made the remark that it could be interesting to have the bivariate complex normal distribution for the case of partial start one touch options or partial barrier option rebates (not sure if those are common). Unfortunately I could not find any code or paper for this. And after asking Prof. Genz (who found a very elegant and fast algorithm for the bivariate normal distribution), it looks like an open problem.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Initial Guesses for SVI - A Summary

I have been looking at various ways of finding initial guesses for SVI calibration (Another SVI Initial Guess, More SVI Initial Guesses, SVI and long maturities issues). I decided to write a paper summarizing this. I find that the process of writing a paper makes me think more carefully about a problem.

In this case, it turns out that the Vogt initial guess method (guess via asymptotes and minimum variance) is actually very good as long as one has a good way to lookup the asymptotes (the data is not always convex, while SVI is) and as long as rho is not close to -1, that is for long maturity affine like smiles, where SVI is actually more difficult to calibrate properly due to the over-parameterisation in those cases.

Still after looking at all of this, one has a sense that, even though it works on a wide variety of surfaces, it could break down because of the complexity (are asymptotes ok, is rho close to -1? how close? is ATM better or maximum curvature better? how do we impose boundaries on a and sigma with Levenberg-Marquardt? (truncation should not be too close to the transform, but how far?)

This is where the Quasi-Explicit method from Zeliade is very interesting: it is simpler, not necessarily to code, but the method itself. There are things to take care of (solving at each boundary), but those are mathematically well defined. The only drawback is performance, as it can be around 40 times slower. But then it's still not that slow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Asymptotic Behavior of SVI vs SABR

The variance under SVI becomes linear when the log-moneyness is very large in absolute terms. The lognormal SABR formula with beta=0 or beta=1 has a very different behavior. Of course, the theoretical SABR model has actually a different asymptotic behavior.

As an illustration, we calibrate SABR (with two different values of beta) and SVI against the same implied volatility slice and look at the wings behavior.

While the Lee moments formula implies that the variance should be at most linear, something that the SABR formula does not respect. It is in practice not the problem with SABR as the actual Lee boundary: V(x) < 2|x|/T (where V is the square of the implied volatility and x the log-moneyness) is attained for extremely low strikes only with SABR, except maybe for very long maturities.

A related behavior is the fact that the lognormal SABR formula can actually match steeper curvatures at the money than SVI for given asymptotes.