Using FX Volatility Skews to Assess the Implied Probability of Brexit, Trump Election, and Hard Brexit

26 January 2018

In the 12 months from the middle of June 2016 to the middle of June 2017, a number of events occurred in a relatively short period of time, all of which either had, or had the potential to have,  a considerably volatile impact upon financial markets. The events referred to here are the Brexit  referendum (23 June 2016), the US election (8 November 2016), the 2017 French elections (23 April and 7 May 2017) and the surprise 2017 UK parliamentary election (8 June 2017). 
All of these events - the Brexit referendum and the Trump election in particular - were notable both for their impact upon financial markets after the event and the degree to which the markets failed to anticipate these events. A natural question to ask is whether these could have been predicted, given information freely available in the financial markets beforehand. In this talk, we focus on market expectations for price action around Brexit and the Trump election, based on information available in the traded foreign exchange options market. We also investigate the horizon date of 30 March 2019, when the two year time window that started with the Article 50 notification on 29 March 2017 will terminate.
Mathematically, we construct a mixture model corresponding to two scenarios for the GBPUSD exchange rate after the referendum vote, one scenario for “remain” and one for “leave”. Calibrating this model to four months of market data, from 24 February to 22 June 2016, we find that a “leave” vote was associated with a predicted devaluation of the British pound to approximately 1.37 USD per GBP, a 4.5% devaluation, and quite consistent with the observed post-referendum exchange rate move down from 1.4877 to 1.3622. We find similar predictive power for USDMXN in the case of the 2016 US presidential election. We argue that we can apply the same bimodal mixture model technique to construct two states of the world corresponding to soft Brexit (continued access to the single market) and hard Brexit (failure of negotiations in this regard).

  • Mathematical Finance Internal Seminar