Explained 101: Pros and Cons of Arbitrage Pricing for Financial Instruments

Rahul Verma
December 12, 2023
Arbitrage Pricing
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Introduction to Arbitrage Pricing

In the intricate world of markets, the concept of the “invisible hand” by Adam Smith influences how prices shape up. This idea suggests that individuals pursuing their interests guide prices in a free market. This can increase competition, allocate resources efficiently and thus help in economic growth. During such cycles, due to imbalances in demand and supply, certain instruments and similar financial derivatives can experience a mismatch in prices which is generally known as an Arbitrage Opportunity.

Arbitrage is a financial tactic that involves exploiting price differences for identical assets in various markets. The goal is to secure a risk-free profit by capitalizing on these temporary price gaps. Arbitrage is not a mythical concept; it’s a practical force shaping markets. Price variations, whether due to supply and demand, transaction costs, currency exchange rates, or regulations, create windows of opportunity for opportunists.

Market Strategies: Types of Arbitrage

Spatial Arbitrage:

Picture a commodity cheaper in one country and pricier in another. Traders seize this difference, buying low and selling high, aligning market prices. By navigating the price difference between the two geographic locations, the trader exploits spatial arbitrage. This strategic move not only aligns prices across borders but also capitalizes on market inefficiency, demonstrating how spatial arbitrage operates in the real world.

In India, there might be a high demand for gold due to cultural events or festivals, leading to increased prices. Meanwhile, in the UAE, where gold is a significant part of the market, prices may be relatively stable.

Investors often buy gold in the UAE, where it’s more affordable, and then sell it in India, capitalizing on the higher demand and consequently elevated prices. This exploits the spatial arbitrage opportunity, equalizing the gold prices between the two locations and reaping a profit by bridging the geographic gap in pricing dynamics.

Statistical Arbitrage:

Traders use quantitative models to identify pricing inefficiencies in related assets. When these deviate from historical norms, trades are made for expected convergence. From index and volatility arbitrage in financial markets to risk arbitrage in corporate events, arbitrage strategies span diverse areas, ensuring market equilibrium.

Generally, a trader observes arbitrage pricing by analysing a positive correlation between two stocks with similar characteristics and industry, let’s say Company A and Company B. The markets show and expect the prices of both companies to behave similarly until there are any company-specific factors influencing the prices of the shares of these companies. In case of an unexpected event, causing a sudden dip in Company A’s stock while Company B’s stock remains steady, this will create a  divergence from the usual correlation and will present an opportunity for Arbitrage Pricing.

The trader opts to short-sell Company B’s stock, anticipating its decline, while simultaneously purchasing Company A’s stock, expecting an increase in prices. The objective is to gain from the anticipated convergence of stock prices, capitalizing on the temporary departure from historical patterns.

Risk arbitrage / Merger Arbitrage:

This strategy of leveraging the price gap in a company’s stock before and after a merger, acquisition, or significant corporate event. Traders seek to profit from the price fluctuations triggered by the outcome of the event. For instance, if Company A is set to acquire Company B, a risk arbitrageur might buy Company B’s stock before the deal, anticipating its price to rise post-merger, and thereby, making a profit.

The contrary can also be true if a merger or acquisition is expected to be unfavourable for one or multiple parties involved, investors can use the opportunity to take short positions on the stocks of either one or multiple companies to capitalize on the opportunity.

Real-Life Examples

Arbitrage isn’t confined to financial markets; it’s a phenomenon we encounter in our daily lives.

Ticket Scalping refers to buying tickets for events like concerts or sports games and reselling them at a markup. Scalpers exploit the dynamics of supply and demand in the secondary ticket market, capitalizing on price differences, sometimes until the last minute.

Spatial arbitrage comes into play when scalpers sell tickets bought elsewhere at the event venue, where demand is higher and more immediate. A general trend of Ticket Scalping is observed in popular public events such as Cricket Matches, Music Concerts and Other Public Shows like Fashion Galas. The price difference in such situations is mainly caused by an artificial lack of supply caused by hoarding the tickets until the last moment. This also magnifies the effect in the form of artificial demand created due to the Veblen Effect.

The rise of online retailers has given rise to retail arbitrage. Shoppers buy products in physical or online stores and resell them at a profit on platforms like eBay, Shopify, or Amazon. Real estate arbitrage is another intriguing and sometimes controversial form. This involves exploiting price differences in the real estate market, such as buying a property undervalued due to market conditions and selling it when its value increases.

Real estate arbitrage occurs when renting a property is much cheaper than potential earnings on platforms like Airbnb. Landlords can maximize returns by opting for short-term rentals instead of traditional long-term agreements.

Controversy arises when long-term renters try to profit similarly. In tourist areas, landlords may offer long-term leases in the off-season and switch to higher-priced weekly rentals in peak months. Some renters take advantage by subleasing on platforms like Airbnb during the lucrative period.

However, this may be restricted by regulations or rental contracts, and not all landlords approve of such practices. Understanding agreements and regulations is crucial in these situations.


Investors can benefit from arbitrage by smartly identifying and exploiting market inefficiencies, like engaging in risk arbitrage during corporate events or utilizing retail arbitrage in e-commerce. Real estate offers earning potential through short-term rentals. However, caution is essential. Investors must be aware of regulations and adhere to contracts, especially in real estate, where subleasing may breach terms or local rules.

Ethical concerns, like those in ticket scalping, should be considered. Investors need to balance profit motives with ethical implications and legal compliance. Prudent risk management is key. Diversify strategies, conduct thorough due diligence, and stay informed about market dynamics, legal aspects, and societal norms for responsible investing.

While arbitrage offers profit opportunities, investors must navigate carefully. Balancing financial gains with ethics and compliance ensures sustainable and responsible investment practices in the dynamic world of arbitrage.


  1. What is an Arbitrage Fund?
    An arbitrage fund is a type of mutual fund that capitalizes on price differentials in financial instruments, exploiting opportunities in various markets. These funds typically seek to benefit from the price variations of assets like stocks, bonds, or derivatives, aiming to generate returns by buying and selling these instruments strategically.
  2. Can somebody lose money in Arbitrage?
    Yes, like any investment strategy, arbitrage carries risks. Market conditions, unexpected events, or regulatory changes can impact the success of arbitrage transactions. While designed to exploit price imbalances for profit, there’s always a possibility of losses. Prudent risk management and understanding the specific market dynamics are crucial to mitigate potential downsides.
  3. Is Arbitrage possible in real life?
    Absolutely. Arbitrage is not limited to financial markets; it occurs in everyday life. Examples include ticket scalping, retail arbitrage in e-commerce, and real estate arbitrage. By leveraging price differences in various scenarios, individuals and businesses can capitalize on arbitrage opportunities outside the traditional financial realm.
  4. Is Arbitrage temporary or permanent?
    Arbitrage is typically temporary. It arises from market inefficiencies or imbalances in supply and demand, and as these disparities are corrected, the arbitrage opportunity diminishes. Investors and arbitrageurs must act swiftly to capitalize on these temporary price differences before the market adjusts, making it a dynamic and time-sensitive strategy.
  5. How is arbitrage calculated?
    Arbitrage calculations involve assessing the potential profit from price discrepancies. In financial markets, it may include comparing the cost of an asset before and after a corporate event. For real estate, it could involve evaluating the difference between renting a property and potential earnings through short-term platforms. The calculation varies based on the specific arbitrage opportunity, requiring a keen understanding of the market dynamics and potential risks involved.
Risk Assessment Test