Elements for a theory of financial risks

8 June 1998

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Estimating and controlling large risks has become one of the main concern of financial institutions. This requires the development of adequate statistical models and theoretical tools (which go beyond the traditionnal theories based on Gaussian statistics), and their practical implementation. Here we describe three interrelated aspects of this program: we first give a brief survey of the peculiar statistical properties of the empirical price fluctuations. We then review how an option pricing theory consistent with these statistical features can be constructed, and compared with real market prices for options. We finally argue that a true 'microscopic' theory of price fluctuations (rather than a statistical model) would be most valuable for risk assessment. A simple Langevin-like equation is proposed, as a possible step in this direction.


Jean-Philippe Bouchaud