Academic Papers

Skew and implied leverage effect: smile dynamics revisited

We revisit the ‘Smile Dynamics’ problem, which consists in relating the implied leverage (i.e. the correlation of the at-the-money volatility with the returns of the underlying) and the skew of the option smile. The ratio between these two quantities, called ‘Skew-Stickiness Ratio’ (SSR) by Bergomi (Smile Dynamics IV, RISK, 94-100, December 2009), saturates to the value 2 for linear models in the limit of small maturities, and converges to 1 for long maturities. We show that for more general, non-linear models (such as the asymmetric GARCH model), Bergomi’s result must be modified, and can be larger than 2 for small maturities.

The discrepancy comes from the fact that the volatility skew is, in general, different from the skewness of the underlying. We compare our theory with empirical results, using data both from option markets and from the underlying price series, for the S&P500 and the DAX.

We find, among other things, that although both the implied leverage and the skew appear to be too strong on option markets, their ratio is well explained by the theory. We observe that the SSR indeed becomes larger than 2 for small maturities.