Spanned stochastic volatility in bond markets: a reexamination of the relative pricing between bonds and bond options

BIS Working Papers No 239
December 2007


This paper reexamines the issue of unspanned stochastic volatility (USV) in bond markets and the puzzle of poor relative pricing between bonds and bond options. I make a distinction between the "weak USV" and the "strong USV" scenarios, and analyze the evidence for each of them. I argue that the poor bonds/options relative pricing in the extant literature is not necessarily evidence for the strong USV scenario, and show that a maximally flexible 2-factor quadratic-Gaussian model (a non-USV model) estimated without bond options data can capture much of the movement in bond option prices. Dropping the positive-definiteness requirement for nominal interest rates and adopting "regularized" estimations turn out to be important for obtaining sensible results.

JEL classification: G12, G13, E43

Keywords: term structure of interest rates, unspanned stochastic volatility, relative pricing, interest rate derivatives.