Arbitrage Theory in Continuous Time

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Arbitrage Theory in Continuous Time

APA Citation

Björk, T. (2020). Arbitrage Theory in Continuous Time (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Chapter Summary

Chapter 1: Introduction

  • Introduces the concept and significance of arbitrage theory in finance, focusing on pricing models for financial derivatives like options and futures.
  • Discusses European call options, using a practical example involving currency risk management through options.

Part I: Discrete Time Models

Chapter 2: The Binomial Model

  • Details the one-period binomial model, illustrating basic principles of arbitrage-free pricing and the creation of replicating portfolios.
  • Expands to the multi-period binomial model, discussing dynamic portfolio strategies and the condition for markets to be arbitrage-free.

Chapter 3: A More General One Period Model

  • Discusses a generalization of the one-period binomial model, introducing more sophisticated arbitrage concepts and conditions for a market being arbitrage-free.
  • Covers martingale measures and their importance in pricing and hedging, emphasizing the market’s completeness and introducing stochastic discount factors.

Part II: Stochastic Calculus

Chapters 4-5: Stochastic Integrals and Differential Equations

  • Introduces stochastic calculus, focusing on the Wiener process, Ito’s lemma, and stochastic differential equations (SDEs).
  • Explains the use of SDEs in modeling stock prices and the relationship to partial differential equations.

Part III: Arbitrage Theory

Chapters 6-12: From Portfolio Dynamics to the Martingale Approach

  • Covers the dynamics of portfolios, self-financing strategies, and detailed derivation of the Black-Scholes formula.
  • Introduces concepts of completeness, hedging, and the Martingale approach in arbitrage theory.

Chapter 13: Black-Scholes from a Martingale Point of View

  • Reinterprets the Black-Scholes model using martingale theory, emphasizing a probabilistic approach to option pricing.
  • Discusses how changes in measure (via the Girsanov theorem) allow for the transformation of the real-world probability measure into a risk-neutral measure.

Chapters 14-15: Multidimensional Models and Change of Numeraire

  • Explores arbitrage theory in multidimensional settings, introducing the concept of changing the numeraire to simplify the valuation of derivatives.
  • Demonstrates practical applications like pricing with forward measures and the use of the numeraire portfolio.

Chapter 16-18: Dividends and Currency Derivatives

  • Discusses the pricing of stocks and derivatives in the presence of discrete and continuous dividend payments.
  • Addresses the pricing and hedging of currency derivatives, including options and futures in foreign exchange markets.

Chapters 19-23: Bonds, Interest Rates, and LIBOR Market Models

  • Covers extensive models for bonds and interest rates, including zero-coupon bonds, the term structure of interest rates, and the Heath-Jarrow-Morton framework.
  • Introduces the LIBOR market model for pricing interest rate derivatives like caps and swaptions, discussing calibration and simulation techniques.

Part IV: Optimal Control and Investment Theory

Chapter 24: Potentials and Positive Interest

  • Examines the Flesaker-Hughston model and general approaches to modeling interest rates using potential theory.
  • Discusses applications of these models to real-world financial instruments and their pricing.

Chapters 25-28: Stochastic Control to American Options

  • Discusses the application of stochastic control theory to financial decision-making, including optimal consumption and investment strategies.
  • Explains the theory and valuation of American options using optimal stopping theory.

Part V: Incomplete Markets

Chapters 29-34: Handling Market Incompleteness

  • Explores techniques for dealing with market incompleteness, including utility maximization and the minimal martingale measure.
  • Examines the implications of market incompleteness on pricing and hedging strategies.

Part VI: Dynamic Equilibrium Theory

Chapters 35-38: Equilibrium Models

  • Introduces dynamic equilibrium theory using production and endowment models.
  • Discusses the Cox-Ingersoll-Ross factor and interest rate models, providing insights into the determination of equilibrium prices and interest rates.

The textbook offers a comprehensive exploration of arbitrage theory, extending from basic models in discrete time to complex applications in continuous time, covering both complete and incomplete market scenarios. It provides rigorous mathematical treatments alongside practical examples, making it suitable for advanced finance students and practitioners interested in the quantitative aspects of financial theory.

Key Concepts

Part I: Discrete Time Models

  • Arbitrage-Free Pricing: The foundational principle that if no arbitrage opportunities exist, there exists a unique price for derivatives that prevents profit without risk.
  • Binomial Model: A simple model where each asset can move up or down by certain factors per period, serving as a basic framework for teaching arbitrage, martingale measures, and pricing derivatives.
  • Replicating Portfolios: Portfolios that mimic the returns of a derivative, crucial for determining the theoretical price of the derivative.

Part II: Stochastic Calculus

  • Stochastic Differential Equations (SDEs): Used to model the evolution of stock prices and other financial variables continuously over time.
  • Ito’s Lemma: A fundamental result in stochastic calculus used to find the differential of a function of a stochastic process, key for deriving financial models like Black-Scholes.
  • Martingale: A stochastic process that represents a fair game, used extensively in the pricing and hedging of financial derivatives.

Part III: Arbitrage Theory

  • Black-Scholes Model: Provides formulas for the pricing of European call and put options and forms the basis for much of modern financial theory.
  • Self-Financing Portfolio: A portfolio that requires no additional cash inputs beyond the initial investment, central to the notion of hedging in financial markets.
  • Complete Markets: A market condition where all derivatives can be perfectly hedged through trading strategies involving underlying assets.

Part IV: Optimal Control and Investment Theory

  • Optimal Stopping Theory: Analyzes the problem of choosing a time to take a particular action to maximize an expected reward or minimize an expected cost.
  • American Options: Options that can be exercised at any time up to their expiration, with pricing and hedging requiring complex optimal stopping strategies.
  • Stochastic Control: Involves dynamic programming and Bellman equations to optimize decision-making in stochastic settings.

Part V: Incomplete Markets

  • Utility Maximization: Focuses on investors maximizing their expected utility, differing significantly in incomplete markets where perfect hedging is not possible.
  • Minimal Martingale Measure: A probability measure under which the discounted asset price process is a martingale, used in pricing derivatives in incomplete markets.
  • Indifference Pricing: A method of pricing derivatives that considers the minimum price at which a seller is indifferent between selling and holding the derivative.

Part VI: Dynamic Equilibrium Theory

  • Equilibrium Models: Models that determine prices not by arbitrage alone but by balancing supply and demand through market participants’ optimization behaviors.
  • Interest Rate Models: Includes models like Cox-Ingersoll-Ross which describe the evolution of interest rates over time using stochastic processes.
  • Numeraire: A scaling factor, such as a stock or an interest rate, relative to which all other financial quantities are measured.

These concepts from “Arbitrage Theory in Continuous Time” are pivotal in understanding the mechanisms of financial markets, particularly in the context of how prices are set, risks are managed, and investment decisions are made under uncertainty.

Real-World Applications and Examples

Part I: Discrete Time Models

  • Hedging Strategies: The binomial model is practical for constructing simple hedging strategies in options trading, illustrating how options can be priced and hedged step-by-step in a simplified market environment.
  • Teaching Tool: Often used in educational settings to introduce students to the foundational concepts of financial derivatives and the principles of no-arbitrage and risk-neutral valuation.

Part II: Stochastic Calculus

  • Financial Engineering: Stochastic differential equations are essential for modeling stock prices, interest rates, and other financial variables in quantitative finance, facilitating the development of complex derivatives pricing models.
  • Risk Management: Tools like Ito’s Lemma help in formulating and adjusting dynamic hedging strategies, crucial for managing risks associated with holding derivatives.

Part III: Arbitrage Theory

  • Derivatives Pricing: The Black-Scholes model, despite its limitations, is widely used in the financial industry for pricing European options and forms the basis for more complex derivatives pricing frameworks.
  • Market Efficiency: The discussion of complete markets informs regulatory and academic debates on market structure and efficiency, influencing the design of more robust financial markets.

Part IV: Optimal Control and Investment Theory

  • Portfolio Optimization: The techniques discussed are applied in managing investment portfolios, where dynamic strategies are necessary to maximize returns or minimize risks over time.
  • Real Options Analysis: Used in corporate finance to value investment opportunities under uncertainty, akin to financial options, particularly in industries like mining, oil, and real estate development.

Part V: Incomplete Markets

  • Pricing in Illiquid Markets: In markets where certain assets cannot be perfectly hedged due to liquidity constraints or other market imperfections, the concepts from incomplete markets provide a framework for alternative pricing methods.
  • Insurance and Actuarial Science: Utility maximization and indifference pricing are used in the insurance industry to price insurance contracts where the risks cannot be fully hedged.

Part VI: Dynamic Equilibrium Theory

  • Macro-Financial Modeling: Used by economists and policymakers to understand and predict the impacts of financial policies on economic variables like interest rates and asset prices.
  • Interest Rate Swaps: The Cox-Ingersoll-Ross model and other interest rate models have direct applications in pricing and managing the risks of interest rate derivatives such as swaps and bonds.


  • Comprehensive Application: “Arbitrage Theory in Continuous Time” offers a deep dive into the theoretical underpinnings of financial market behavior and provides tools for practical applications in a variety of financial sectors, from banking and securities trading to corporate finance and policy formulation.
  • Influence on Practice: The models and methods presented are integral to the operations of financial institutions and inform both strategic decision-making and tactical management of financial products.
  • Adaptation and Innovation: As financial markets evolve, the principles and models taught in this textbook adapt to new financial products and technologies, underscoring the ongoing relevance and necessity of a solid grounding in these theories for financial professionals.

The real-world applications and examples highlighted in the textbook demonstrate its extensive influence and utility in both academic and professional spheres, bridging theory with practice in the financial industry.

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