Asset Pricing

ECO421 Asset Pricing

Spring 2023

  • Topics

    The course focuses on the economic principles behind rational valuation and investment choice. This allows the student to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of important finance models. The overall aim is to increase the student's sophistication and help the student avoid naive/misleading model applications. The course sets out by clarifying the foundation of financial economics; the relationship between equilibrium or the absence of arbitrage opportunities and the existence of a system of state prices. All asset prices are then shown to be bundles/portfolios of state prices; stocks, bonds, derivatives etc. The course also demonstrates that classic models like the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) and the Black-Scholes-Merton option pricing formula are special instances of the same basic economic framework. To keep the mathematics at a minimal level, results are generally formulated in a discrete-time setting, with an emphasis on one-period models. Topics include, but are not limited to

    1. Introduction

    • Equilibrium vs arbitrage asset pricing
    • Investor preferences
    • Measuring risk aversion: absolute and relative risk aversion
    • Basic results of optimal capital allocation

    2. Investment Decisions in a State Contingent Claim Framework

    • The Framework
    • Optimal investment decisions
    • Elementary linear algebra
    • Spanning: Complete versus incomplete markets
    • No-arbitrage conditions and pricing of securities

    3. Investment Decisions Based on Arbitrage/Replication Arguments

    • The relationship between state prices and risk-adjusted probabilities/option pricing theory
    • The binomial option pricing model

    4. The Term Structure of Interest Rates

    • Discount factors, spot rates, and forward rates
    • Spanning & pricing using treasuries
    • Term structure theories

    5. Portfolio choice, the CAPM, and APT

    • Mean-variance portfolio choice: the Markowitz model
    • The CAPM with homogeneous beliefs
    • Mean-variance portfolio choice with market deviating beliefs: the Black-Litterman model
    • Ross' multi-factor asset pricing model (the APT)
    • Understanding linear multi-factor models, like the Fama-French 3-factor model

    6. Additional topics

    • Stochastic discount factors
    • Multi-period consumption-based asset pricing models
      • The equity premium puzzle
    • Current topics in the academic asset pricing literature, e.g. recent empirical findings

    This syllabus is tentative. Changes to topics and plans for this course are likely, for instance to accommodate student interests, new developments, or current events.

  • Learning outcome

    After completing the course, the students will:


    • know the fundamental theory of asset pricing and portfolio choice
    • understand key simplifying assumptions behind investment models and their ideal use cases
    • understand the roles of the concepts of "equilibrium" and "no arbitrage" in investments
    • understand the roles of spanning and complete markets assumptions (which all models make)
    • understand the relationship between portfolio choice, partial/general equilibrium, and asset prices


    • be able to discern the important assumptions, features and empirical predictions of investments models
    • be able to formulate and conduct quantitative analyses
    • be able to implement sophisticated portfolio choice and pricing models, with and without constraints (e.g. short sales or ESG requirements)

    General competences:

    • be able to use the tools from asset pricing to related tasks such as hedging, return & risk modeling and assessment
    • be able to discuss recent empirical research and current events in financial markets from an asset pricing standpoint.
    • be able to extract key insights from asset pricing research
    • be able to communicate key insights from asset pricing

  • Teaching

    Regular lectures, class room discussions, problem solving exercises, and student presentations.

  • Required prerequisites

    To take this course you should already have basic insights corresponding to

    • optimization, similar to those obtained in a basic course in mathematics or ECO401,
    • a general understanding of financial markets, similar to those obtained in FIE400.

  • Compulsory Activity

    Compulsory activities (work requirements) is based on homework and other assigned course activities.

  • Assessment

    Individual four hour home exam.

  • Grading Scale


  • Computer tools

    The lectures use R to illustrate key course topics. Some of the assignments are designed to be solved with R, but can be solved in other types of software like Excel or Matlab. R is however the only formally supported software tool in the course. Students do not need to know R before attending the course.

  • Literature

    Lecture notes.

    Additional Readings may be assigned.


ECTS Credits
Teaching language
All course activities are conducted in English

Autumn. Offered autumn 2022.

Course responsible

Associate Professor Jørgen Haug, Department of Finance, NHH.