Does Correlation Matter in Pricing Caps and Swaptions?

24 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 1998

See all articles by A. R. Radhakrishnan

A. R. Radhakrishnan

New York University (NYU) - Department of Finance

Date Written: September 1998


This paper studies the effect of forward rate correlations on caplet and swaption prices. A two-factor HJM lognormal model of forward rates that implies a realistic covariance matrix of forward rates is constructed. A one-factor lognormal model, with the same forward rate volatilities as the two-factor one, is employed for comparison purposes. The one- and two-factor models price European caplets identically. The one-factor model overprices European swaptions as expected. But the magnitude of overpricing is surprisingly small, less than three percent for at-the-money swaptions on five-year semi-annual swaps. The overpricing is less for shorter swap lengths. The surprising result is that the one-factor model underprices both American caplets and American-type swaptions. Five-year at-the-money American caplets on six-month rates are underpriced by as much as twelve percent and three-year at-the-money constant maturity Bermudan swaptions on two-year semi-annual swaps by as much as ten percent. The underpricing is relatively low for six-month and one-year options but increases with option maturity and forward rate decorrelation. Unlike constant maturity Bermudan swaptions, regular Bermudan swaptions are overpriced by the one-factor model by more than four percent in the case of three-year maturity swaptions. An intuitive explanation for the underpricing of American options under the one-factor model is offered. This explanation implies that American options on any type of interest rate security would be underpriced if perfect correlation across the forward rate term structure is assumed.

JEL Classification: G13

Suggested Citation

Radhakrishnan, A. R., Does Correlation Matter in Pricing Caps and Swaptions? (September 1998). Available at SSRN: or

A. R. Radhakrishnan (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Department of Finance ( email )

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