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On the acceleration of explicit finite difference methods for option pricing


  • Stephen O'Sullivan
  • Conall O'Sullivan


Implicit finite difference methods are conventionally preferred over their explicit counterparts for the numerical valuation of options. In large part the reason for this is a severe stability constraint known as the Courant-Friedrichs-Lewy (CFL) condition which limits the latter class's efficiency. Implicit methods, however, are difficult to implement for all but the most simple of pricing models, whereas explicit techniques are easily adapted to complex problems. For the first time in a financial context, we present an acceleration technique, applicable to explicit finite difference schemes describing diffusive processes with symmetric evolution operators, called Super-Time-Stepping. We show that this method can be implemented as part of a more general approach for non-symmetric operators. Formal stability is thereby deduced for the exemplar cases of European and American put options priced under the Black-Scholes equation. Furthermore, we introduce a novel approach to describing the efficiencies of finite difference schemes as semi-empirical power laws relating the minimal real time required to carry out the numerical integration to a solution with a specified accuracy. Tests are described in which the method is shown to significantly ameliorate the severity of the CFL constraint whilst retaining the simplicity of the underlying explicit method. Degrees of acceleration are achieved yielding comparable, or superior, efficiencies to a set of benchmark implicit schemes. We infer that the described method is a powerful tool, the explicit nature of which makes it ideally suited to the treatment of symmetric and non-symmetric diffusion operators describing complex financial instruments including multi-dimensional systems requiring representation on decomposed and/or adaptive meshes.

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen O'Sullivan & Conall O'Sullivan, 2011. "On the acceleration of explicit finite difference methods for option pricing," Quantitative Finance, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(8), pages 1177-1191.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:quantf:v:11:y:2011:i:8:p:1177-1191
    DOI: 10.1080/14697680903055570

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