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Bivariate normal mixture spread option valuation

By Carol Alexander and Andrew Scourse

Abstract

We discuss the pricing and hedging of European spread options on correlated assets when the marginal distribution of each asset return is assumed to be a mixture of normal distributions. Being a straightforward two-dimensional generalization of a normal mixture diffusion model, the prices and hedge ratios have a firm behavioural and theoretical foundation. In this 'bivariate normal mixture' (BNM) model no-arbitrage option values are just weighted sums of different '2GBM' option values that are based on the assumption of two correlated lognormal diffusions, and likewise for their sensitivities. The main advantage of this approach is that BNM option values are consistent with both volatility smiles and with the implied correlation 'frown'. No other 'frown consistent' spread option valuation model has such straightforward implementation. We apply analytic approximations to compare BNM valuations of European spread options with those based on the 2GBM assumption and explain the differences between the two as a weighted sum of six second-order 2GBM sensitivities. We also examine BNM option sensitivities, finding that these, like the option values, can sometimes differ substantially from those obtained under the 2GBM model. Finally, we show how the correlation frown that is implied by the BNM model is affected as we change (a) the correlation structure and (b) the tail probabilities in the joint density of the asset returns.

DOI identifier: 10.1080/14697680400016174
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