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Exploring Time-Varying Jump Intensities: Evidence from S&P500 Returns and Options

Standard empirical investigations of jump dynamics in returns and volatility are fairly complicated due to the presence of latent continuous-time factors. We present a new discrete-time framework that combines heteroskedastic processes with rich specifications of jumps in returns and volatility. Our models can be estimated with ease using standard maximum likelihood techniques. We provide a tractable risk neutralization framework for this class of models which allows for separate modeling of risk premia for the jump and normal innovations. We anchor our models in the literature by providing continuous time limits of the models. The models are evaluated by fitting a long sample of S&P500 index returns, and by valuing a large sample of options. We find strong empirical support for time-varying jump intensities. A model with jump intensity that is affine in the conditional variance performs particularly well both in return fitting and option valuation. Our implementation allows for multiple jumps per day, and the data indicate support for this model feature, most notably on Black Monday in October 1987. Our results also confirm the importance of jump risk premia for option valuation: jumps cannot significantly improve the performance of option pricing models unless sizeable jump risk premia are present.
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