Density Functionals, with an Option-Pricing Application
34 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2012
Date Written: 2003
We present a method of estimating density-related functionals, without prior knowledge of the density's functional form. The approach revolves around the specification of an explicit formula for a new class of distributions which encompasses many of the known cases in statistics, including the normal, gamma, inverse gamma, and mixtures thereof. The functionals are based on a couple of hypergeometric functions. Their parameters can be estimated, and the estimates then reveal both the functional form of the density and the parameters that determine centring, scaling, etc. The function to be estimated always leads to a valid density, by design, namely one that is nonnegative everywhere and integrates to 1. Unlike fully-nonparametric methods, our approach can be applied to small datasets. To illustrate our methodology, we apply it to finding risk-neutral densities associated with different types of financial options. We show how our approach fits the data uniformly very well. We also find that our estimated densities' functional forms vary over the dataset, so that existing parametric methods will not do uniformly well.
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