Recovering risk aversion from options
Cross-sections of option prices embed the risk-neutral probability densities functions (PDFs) for the future values of the underlying asset. Theory suggests that risk-neutral PDFs differ from market expectations due to risk premia. Using a utility function to adjust the risk-neutral PDF to produce subjective PDFs, we can obtain measures of the risk aversion implied in option prices. Using FTSE 100 and S&P 500 options, and both power and exponential utility functions, we show that subjective PDFs accurately forecast the distribution of realizations, while risk-neutral PDFs do not. The estimated coefficients of relative risk aversion are all reasonable. The relative risk aversion estimates are remarkably consistent across utility functions and across markets for given horizons. The degree of relative risk aversion declines with the forecast horizon and is lower during periods of high market volatility.
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