Suppose that a company has an exposure to two different market variables. In the case of each variable, it gains $10 million if there is a one-standard-deviation increase and loses $10 million if there is a one-standard-deviation decrease. If changes in the two variables have a high positive correlation, the company's total exposure is very high; if they have a correlation of zero, the exposure is less but still quite large; if they have a high negative correlation, the exposure is quite low because a loss on one of the variables is likely to be offset by a gain on the other. This example shows that it is important for a risk manager to estimate correlations between the changes in market variables as well as their volatilities when assessing risk exposures.
This chapter explains how correlations can be monitored in a similar way to volatilities. It also covers what are known as copulas. These are tools that provide a way of defining a correlation structure between two or more variables, regardless of the shapes of their probability distributions. Copulas have a number of applications in risk management. The chapter shows how a copula can be used to create a model of default correlation for a portfolio of loans. This model is used in the Basel II capital requirements.
The coefficient of correlation, ρ, between two variables V1 and V2 is defined as
where E(.) denotes expected value and SD(.) denotes standard ...