# Introduction

Accurate and efficient methods for pricing and hedging financial derivatives is critical in many financial applications. Many derivatives have well developed mathematical models, but the models do not have a closed form solution. The pricing of American put options is a case in point.

This project explores the different numerical methods for solving
European, and, most importantly, American put options derived from the
well-known *Black-Scholes* equation. Mainly, we focus on
both accuracy and efficiency of each algorithm.

# Approach

The *Black-Scholes* equation is given by:

For European put options, we transform the problem to a diffusion equation and develop mesh approximation to numerically solve the partial differential equation. Take

Also, let

The *Black-Scholes* equation now becomes

To reach a finite mesh approximation, we cut the $(x, \tau)$ domain into a finite mesh with tiny space. Denote $u_n^m = u(n\delta x, m\delta \tau)$. By forward difference approximation of $\partial u \over \partial x$ and $\partial u \over \partial \tau$, we have and backward difference approximation:

If we take $\alpha = {\delta \tau \over (\delta x)^2}$, the forward and backward difference approximation will be: and

Based on either forward or backward difference approximation, several algorithms can be developed numerically to solve the diffusion equation. In this project, we examine only the Explicit Forward Method, Implicit LU Method, Implicit SOR Method, Crank-Nicolson LU Method and Crank-Nicolson SOR Method. The detailed explanation and Pseudocode of each method is listed in [1]. Briefly, the difference between the LU and SOR methods is that the LU method uses LU matrix factorization to solve a large system of equations, whereas the SOR method uses iterative guesses to get an approximated value under certain error tolerance. The difference between the Implicit and Crank-Nicolson Method is that the Crank-Nicolson Method applies both forward and backward difference approximation to get a lower error order.

For American put options, the idea of the linear complementary problem is used to solve the free boundary condition in the partial differential equation. Now, we need to solve the following relationship:

where $x_f(\tau)$ is the free boundary in the linear complementary problem and $g(x, \tau)$ is the payoff function:

In order to solve this problem, we need to apply the *PSOR* method,
which is a slight modification based on *SOR*. The derivation and
Pseudocode are also listed in [1]. Briefly, in *PSOR*, at each time
step, if the estimated value is below the payoff function, we need to
use the payoff value instead of the estimated value. This is because the
nature of American options is such that the value at the time before
maturity is always larger or equal to the value at maturity.

# Analysis

### European Put Options

In this project, we mainly focus on the accuracy of each method. For
European put options, as we have a closed form of solution, the
*Black-Scholes* formula, error of each method is very easy
to compute. Figure 1 is generated from **Implicit LU Method** as an
example (the plots for other methods are omitted here).

**Figure 1:** Parameters of the European put option:
$E = 10, r = 0.1, \sigma = 0.4, T-t = 1$. The left is the estimated
value of the option while the right is the absolute value of the error
from estimating this option using the Crank-Nicolson LU
Method.

Note that in general, the magnitude of error compared to the
*Black-Scholes* formula is less than 4e-3, which is
sufficiently small for most applications. Also, the error increases as S
approaches the exercise price $E = 10$. This is due to the fact that
there is a saddle point around $S = 10$. When $S$ is much smaller than
10, the result is approximately linear. If $S$ is much larger than 10,
the value converges to 0. In both cases, they leave little room for the
approximation. Thus, the induced error is quite small. However, around
$S = 10$, we have a transition from one linear line to another. In this
case, the approximation is used heavily. Therefore, we observe a larger
error around $S = 10$.

Also, for the **Implicit Method**, the error is of order
$O(\delta \tau) + O((\delta x)^2)$(proven in [1]). To better check
this important behavior, we can plot error versus $(\delta \tau)$ and
$(\delta x)^2$ respectively (Figure 2).

**Figure 2:** Parameters of the European put option:
$E = 10, r = 0.1, \sigma = 0.4, T-t = 1$. The left is plotted by error
versus dt while the right is by error versus
$dx^2$.

### American Put Options

![Parameters of the American put option: $E = 10, r = 0.1, \sigma = 0.4, T-t = 1$. The left is the estimated value of the option before maturity(in blue) where the right is the error ratio plotted with respect to S. $S_f(t)$ is cawidth=”16cm”}

For American put options, we do not have a closed form solution to
compare. However, there are two general ways to examine the accuracy of
our **PSOR** algorithm. Firstly, we can plot the estimated value and
compare it visually to the European put option with same parameters. By
the nature of the linear complementary problem, the value would be the
same as the payoff function before the free boundary $S_f(t)$ and larger
than that after $S_f(t)$. By the smoothness assumption of the linear
complementary problem, at $S_f(t)$, the function should be tangent to
the payoff function. These behaviours can be nicely checked in Figure
3(left).

Secondly, note that if we change the size of $\delta x$ and
$\delta \tau$ proportionally, the error should also change
proportionally. As **PSOR** is modified from the **Crank-Nicolson
Method**, the order of error is approximately
$O((\delta \tau)^2) + O((\delta x)^2)$. Pick $\delta x_1$ and $\delta \tau _1$. Let
Then
Then, subtracting,

**Figure 3:** Parameters of the American put option:
$E = 10, r = 0.1, \sigma = 0.4, T-t = 1$. The left is the estimated
value of the option before maturity(in blue) where the right is the
error ratio plotted with respect to S. $S_f(t)$ is calculated to be approximately 7.408.

Therefore we should have the following relationship:

The ratio of ${P_1 - P_2} \over P_2 - P_3$ is plotted in Figure 3 (right). Note that only the ratio near $S = 10$ part is of our interest. When $S$ is smaller than the free boundary $S_f(t) = 7.408$, the error ratio randomly picks $0$ or $NaN$. This is because before free boundary, the estimated values are the same as in the payoff function. Therefore, most of the time, the denominator is 0 and the ratio is undefined. As $S$ increases, the estimated value will converge to 0 so quickly that the approximation algorithm is not deeply used. The ratio will again be uninterpretable.

# Conclusion

Overall, this project examines different methods for pricing European
put options with the **PSOR Method** for American put options. For the
European put option part, the **Crank-Nicolson Method** provides a more
precise estimation. When talking about efficiency, the **LU Method** is
much faster than the **SOR Method** because the **SOR-solver** function
needs to iterate until convergence at each time step. For American
options, in practice, the **PSOR Method** computes very slowly as it
also must iterate until convergence. By adjusting the over-relaxation
parameter, the runtime of computing convergence is optimized.

The underlying assumption for the pricing problem is quite simple. We ignore the effect of transaction fee, dividends, etc. However, these advanced assumptions can be included by further modifications based on these algorithms. Moreover, we can also price another type of option by changing the payoff function. These topics are beyond the scope of our discussion here.

The major difficulty for this project is understanding how to transform
the **Black-Scholes equation** to a numerically solvable problem. I
believe the value of this idea is beyond just pricing options. This
project may inspire me in the future whenever I need to apply numerical
approaches to the encountered problem.

### References

- Howison, S., Dewynne, J., Wilmoot, P.
*The mathematicas of financial derivatives: A student introduction.*1995