Stochastic Processes and Martingales
In this chapter we give a brief overview of the basic mathematical concepts used for pricing financial products. Modern pricing theory is mainly based on describing the ups and downs of market prices via stochastic processes. Therefore, we start with the definition and characteristics of stochastic processes in Section 2.1. Usually the price-changes of the most basic financial instruments are modelled in terms of a so-called stochastic differential equation (SDE). The price of a financial derivative is considered to be a function of the basic financial instruments’ prices. One of the central tools in stochastic calculus which can be applied to determine the stochastic differential equation for the prices of these derivatives, Itô’s lemma, is described in Section 2.4. This concept is closely related to the stochastic integral, which is defined in Section 2.3 to be the mean square limit of some random sums, carefully put together so that the resulting limit is a (local) martingale. And in fact, martingales are one of the most important elements needed for the evaluation of financial instruments. They are defined in Section 2.5 and are used to describe the prices of financial derivatives in terms of conditional expectations. The Feynman-Kac formula provides a partial differential equation (PDE) that corresponds to such conditional expectations as described in Section 2.6. The advantage of dealing with partial differential equations is that they can be solved numerically. Also, PDE methods come naturally to applied mathematicians and physicists. This approach led Black and Scholes [BS73] to their famous equation for pricing European options. Their model will be discussed in Section 3.5. By contrast, martingales and Itô (stochastic) calculus come naturally to probabilists, and this approach led Merton [Mer74] to his option pricing formula.
KeywordsStochastic Process Stochastic Differential Equation Conditional Expectation Wiener Process Local Martingale
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