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The Basics of Financial Mathematics

Spring 2003

Richard F. Bass
Department of Mathematics
University of Connecticut

These notes are c 2003 by Richard Bass. They may be used for personal use or
class use, but not for commercial purposes. If you п¬Ѓnd any errors, I would appreciate
hearing from you: bass@math.uconn.edu

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1. Introduction.
In this course we will study mathematical п¬Ѓnance. Mathematical п¬Ѓnance is not
about predicting the price of a stock. What it is about is п¬Ѓguring out the price of options
and derivatives.
The most familiar type of option is the option to buy a stock at a given price at
a given time. For example, suppose Microsoft is currently selling today at \$40 per share.
A European call option is something I can buy that gives me the right to buy a share of
Microsoft at some future date. To make up an example, suppose I have an option that
allows me to buy a share of Microsoft for \$50 in three months time, but does not compel
me to do so. If Microsoft happens to be selling at \$45 in three months time, the option is
worthless. I would be silly to buy a share for \$50 when I could call my broker and buy it
for \$45. So I would choose not to exercise the option. On the other hand, if Microsoft is
selling for \$60 three months from now, the option would be quite valuable. I could exercise
the option and buy a share for \$50. I could then turn around and sell the share on the
open market for \$60 and make a proп¬Ѓt of \$10 per share. Therefore this stock option I
possess has some value. There is some chance it is worthless and some chance that it will
lead me to a proп¬Ѓt. The basic question is: how much is the option worth today?
The huge impetus in п¬Ѓnancial derivatives was the seminal paper of Black and Scholes
in 1973. Although many researchers had studied this question, Black and Scholes gave a
deп¬Ѓnitive answer, and a great deal of research has been done since. These are not just
academic questions; today the market in п¬Ѓnancial derivatives is larger than the market
in stock securities. In other words, more money is invested in options on stocks than in
stocks themselves.
Options have been around for a long time. The earliest ones were used by manu-
facturers and food producers to hedge their risk. A farmer might agree to sell a bushel of
wheat at a п¬Ѓxed price six months from now rather than take a chance on the vagaries of
market prices. Similarly a steel reп¬Ѓnery might want to lock in the price of iron ore at a
п¬Ѓxed price.
The sections of these notes can be grouped into п¬Ѓve categories. The п¬Ѓrst is elemen-
tary probability. Although someone who has had a course in undergraduate probability
will be familiar with some of this, we will talk about a number of topics that are not usu-
ally covered in such a course: Пѓ-п¬Ѓelds, conditional expectations, martingales. The second
category is the binomial asset pricing model. This is just about the simplest model of a
stock that one can imagine, and this will provide a case where we can see most of the major
ideas of mathematical п¬Ѓnance, but in a very simple setting. Then we will turn to advanced
probability, that is, ideas such as Brownian motion, stochastic integrals, stochastic diп¬Ђer-
ential equations, Girsanov transformation. Although to do this rigorously requires measure
theory, we can still learn enough to understand and work with these concepts. We then

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return to п¬Ѓnance and work with the continuous model. We will derive the Black-Scholes
formula, see the Fundamental Theorem of Asset Pricing, work with equivalent martingale
measures, and the like. The п¬Ѓfth main category is term structure models, which means
models of interest rate behavior.
I found some unpublished notes of Steve Shreve extremely useful in preparing these
notes. I hope that he has turned them into a book and that this book is now available.
The stochastic calculus part of these notes is from my own book: Probabilistic Techniques
in Analysis, Springer, New York, 1995.
I would also like to thank Evarist GinВґ who pointed out a number of errors.
e

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2. Review of elementary probability.
LetвЂ™s begin by recalling some of the deп¬Ѓnitions and basic concepts of elementary
probability. We will only work with discrete models at п¬Ѓrst.
We start with an arbitrary set, called the probability space, which we will denote
by в„¦, the capital Greek letter вЂњomega.вЂќ We are given a class F of subsets of в„¦. These are
called events. We require F to be a Пѓ-п¬Ѓeld.

Deп¬Ѓnition 2.1. A collection F of subsets of в„¦ is called a Пѓ-п¬Ѓeld if

в€… в€€ F,
(1)
в„¦ в€€ F,
(2)
A в€€ F implies Ac в€€ F, and
(3)
A1 , A2 , . . . в€€ F implies both в€Єв€ћ Ai в€€ F and в€©в€ћ Ai в€€ F.
(4) i=1 i=1

Here Ac = {П‰ в€€ в„¦ : П‰ в€€ A} denotes the complement of A. в€… denotes the empty set, that
/
is, the set with no elements. We will use without special comment the usual notations of
в€Є (union), в€© (intersection), вЉ‚ (contained in), в€€ (is an element of).
Typically, in an elementary probability course, F will consist of all subsets of
в„¦, but we will later need to distinguish between various Пѓ-п¬Ѓelds. Here is an exam-
ple. Suppose one tosses a coin two times and lets в„¦ denote all possible outcomes. So
в„¦ = {HH, HT, T H, T T }. A typical Пѓ-п¬Ѓeld F would be the collection of all subsets of в„¦.
In this case it is trivial to show that F is a Пѓ-п¬Ѓeld, since every subset is in F. But if
we let G = {в€…, в„¦, {HH, HT }, {T H, T T }}, then G is also a Пѓ-п¬Ѓeld. One has to check the
deп¬Ѓnition, but to illustrate, the event {HH, HT } is in G, so we require the complement of
that set to be in G as well. But the complement is {T H, T T } and that event is indeed in
G.
One point of view which we will explore much more fully later on is that the Пѓ-п¬Ѓeld
tells you what events you вЂњknow.вЂќ In this example, F is the Пѓ-п¬Ѓeld where you вЂњknowвЂќ
everything, while G is the Пѓ-п¬Ѓeld where you вЂњknowвЂќ only the result of the п¬Ѓrst toss but not
the second. We wonвЂ™t try to be precise here, but to try to add to the intuition, suppose
one knows whether an event in F has happened or not for a particular outcome. We
would then know which of the events {HH}, {HT }, {T H}, or {T T } has happened and so
would know what the two tosses of the coin showed. On the other hand, if we know which
events in G happened, we would only know whether the event {HH, HT } happened, which
means we would know that the п¬Ѓrst toss was a heads, or we would know whether the event
{T H, T T } happened, in which case we would know that the п¬Ѓrst toss was a tails. But
there is no way to tell what happened on the second toss from knowing which events in G
happened. Much more on this later.

The third basic ingredient is a probability.

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Deп¬Ѓnition 2.2. A function P on F is a probability if it satisп¬Ѓes

if A в€€ F, then 0 в‰¤ P(A) в‰¤ 1,
(1)
(2) P(в„¦) = 1, and
(3) P(в€…) = 0, and
в€ћ
if A1 , A2 , . . . в€€ F are pairwise disjoint, then P(в€Єв€ћ Ai ) =
(4) P(Ai ).
i=1 i=1

A collection of sets Ai is pairwise disjoint if Ai в€© Aj = в€… unless i = j.
There are a number of conclusions one can draw from this deп¬Ѓnition. As one
example, if A вЉ‚ B, then P(A) в‰¤ P(B) and P(Ac ) = 1 в€’ P(A). See Note 1 at the end of
this section for a proof.
Someone who has had measure theory will realize that a Пѓ-п¬Ѓeld is the same thing
as a Пѓ-algebra and a probability is a measure of total mass one.

A random variable (abbreviated r.v.) is a function X from в„¦ to R, the reals. To
be more precise, to be a r.v. X must also be measurable, which means that {П‰ : X(П‰) в‰Ґ
a} в€€ F for all reals a.
The notion of measurability has a simple deп¬Ѓnition but is a bit subtle. If we take
the point of view that we know all the events in G, then if Y is G-measurable, then we
know Y . Phrased another way, suppose we know whether or not the event has occurred
for each event in G. Then if Y is G-measurable, we can compute the value of Y .
Here is an example. In the example above where we tossed a coin two times, let X
be the number of heads in the two tosses. Then X is F measurable but not G measurable.
To see this, let us consider Aa = {П‰ в€€ в„¦ : X(П‰) в‰Ґ a}. This event will equal

if a в‰¤ 0;
пЈґв„¦
пЈ±
{HH, HT, T H} if 0 < a в‰¤ 1;
пЈІ
пЈґ {HH} if 1 < a в‰¤ 2;
пЈі
в€… if 2 < a.

For example, if a = 2 , then the event where the number of heads is 3 or greater is the
3
2
event where we had two heads, namely, {HH}. Now observe that for each a the event Aa
is in F because F contains all subsets of в„¦. Therefore X is measurable with respect to F.
3
However it is not true that Aa is in G for every value of a вЂ“ take a = 2 as just one example
вЂ“ the subset {HH} is not in G. So X is not measurable with respect to the Пѓ-п¬Ѓeld G.

A discrete r.v. is one where P(П‰ : X(П‰) = a) = 0 for all but countably many aвЂ™s,
say, a1 , a2 , . . ., and i P(П‰ : X(П‰) = ai ) = 1. In deп¬Ѓning sets one usually omits the П‰;
thus (X = x) means the same as {П‰ : X(П‰) = x}.
In the discrete case, to check measurability with respect to a Пѓ-п¬Ѓeld F, it is enough
that (X = a) в€€ F for all reals a. The reason for this is that if x1 , x2 , . . . are the values of

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x for which P(X = x) = 0, then we can write (X в‰Ґ a) = в€Єxi в‰Ґa (X = xi ) and we have a
countable union. So if (X = xi ) в€€ F, then (X в‰Ґ a) в€€ F.
Given a discrete r.v. X, the expectation or mean is deп¬Ѓned by

EX = xP(X = x)
x

provided the sum converges. If X only takes п¬Ѓnitely many values, then this is a п¬Ѓnite sum
and of course it will converge. This is the situation that we will consider for quite some
time. However, if X can take an inп¬Ѓnite number of values (but countable), convergence
needs to be checked. For example, if P(X = 2n ) = 2в€’n for n = 1, 2, . . ., then E X =
в€ћ в€’n
n
n=1 2 В· 2 = в€ћ.
There is an alternate deп¬Ѓnition of expectation which is equivalent in the discrete
setting. Set
EX = X(П‰)P({П‰}).
П‰в€€в„¦

To see that this is the same, look at Note 2 at the end of the section. The advantage of the
second deп¬Ѓnition is that some properties of expectation, such as E (X + Y ) = E X + E Y ,
are immediate, while with the п¬Ѓrst deп¬Ѓnition they require quite a bit of proof.
We say two events A and B are independent if P(A в€© B) = P(A)P(B). Two random
variables X and Y are independent if P(X в€€ A, Y в€€ B) = P(X в€€ A)P(X в€€ B) for all A
and B that are subsets of the reals. The comma in the expression P(X в€€ A, Y в€€ B) means
вЂњand.вЂќ Thus
P(X в€€ A, Y в€€ B) = P((X в€€ A) в€© (Y в€€ B)).
The extension of the deп¬Ѓnition of independence to the case of more than two events or
random variables is not surprising: A1 , . . . , An are independent if

P(Ai1 в€© В· В· В· в€© Aij ) = P(Ai1 ) В· В· В· P(Aij )

whenever {i1 , . . . , ij } is a subset of {1, . . . , n}.
A common misconception is that an event is independent of itself. If A is an event
that is independent of itself, then

P(A) = P(A в€© A) = P(A)P(A) = (P(A))2 .

The only п¬Ѓnite solutions to the equation x = x2 are x = 0 and x = 1, so an event is
independent of itself only if it has probability 0 or 1.
Two Пѓ-п¬Ѓelds F and G are independent if A and B are independent whenever A в€€ F
and B в€€ G. A r.v. X and a Пѓ-п¬Ѓeld G are independent if P((X в€€ A) в€© B) = P(X в€€ A)P(B)
whenever A is a subset of the reals and B в€€ G.

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As an example, suppose we toss a coin two times and we deп¬Ѓne the Пѓ-п¬Ѓelds G1 =
{в€…, в„¦, {HH, HT }, {T H, T T }} and G2 = {в€…, в„¦, {HH, T H}, {HT, T T }}. Then G1 and G2 are
independent if P(HH) = P(HT ) = P(T H) = P(T T ) = 1 . (Here we are writing P(HH)
4
when a more accurate way would be to write P({HH}).) An easy way to understand this
is that if we look at an event in G1 that is not в€… or в„¦, then that is the event that the п¬Ѓrst
toss is a heads or it is the event that the п¬Ѓrst toss is a tails. Similarly, a set other than в€…
or в„¦ in G2 will be the event that the second toss is a heads or that the second toss is a
tails.

If two r.v.s X and Y are independent, we have the multiplication theorem, which
says that E (XY ) = (E X)(E Y ) provided all the expectations are п¬Ѓnite. See Note 3 for a
proof.
Suppose X1 , . . . , Xn are n independent r.v.s, such that for each one P(Xi = 1) = p,
n
P(Xi = 0) = 1 в€’ p, where p в€€ [0, 1]. The random variable Sn = i=1 Xi is called a
binomial r.v., and represents, for example, the number of successes in n trials, where the
probability of a success is p. An important result in probability is that

n!
pk (1 в€’ p)nв€’k .
P(Sn = k) =
k!(n в€’ k)!

The variance of a random variable is

Var X = E [(X в€’ E X)2 ].

This is also equal to
E [X 2 ] в€’ (E X)2 .

It is an easy consequence of the multiplication theorem that if X and Y are independent,

Var (X + Y ) = Var X + Var Y.

The expression E [X 2 ] is sometimes called the second moment of X.
We close this section with a deп¬Ѓnition of conditional probability. The probability
of A given B, written P(A | B) is deп¬Ѓned by

P(A в€© B)
,
P(B)

provided P(B) = 0. The conditional expectation of X given B is deп¬Ѓned to be

E [X; B]
,
P(B)

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