Open Access
August, 1968 Optimal Stopping in a Markov Process
Howard M. Taylor
Ann. Math. Statist. 39(4): 1333-1344 (August, 1968). DOI: 10.1214/aoms/1177698259


Let $X = (X_t, \mathbf{F}_t, P^x)_{t\geqq0}$ be a Markov process where $(X_t; t \geqq 0)$ is the trajectory or sample path, $\mathbf{F}_t$ is the definitive $\sigma$-algebra of events generated by $(X_s; 0 \leqq s \leqq t)$, and $P^x$ is the probability distribution on sample paths corresponding to an initial state $x$. The state space is taken as the semi-compact $(E, \mathbf{C})$ where $E$ is a locally compact separable metric space with family of open sets $\mathbf{C}$. A non-negative extended real valued random variable $T$ such that for each $t \geqq 0, \{T \leqq t\} \varepsilon \mathbf{F}_t$ is called a Markov time or stopping time. This paper studies the problem of choosing a stopping time $T$ which, for a fixed $\lambda \geqq 0$, maximizes one of the following criteria:\begin{equation*}\tag{1} \Theta_T(x) = E^xe^{-\lambda T} g(X_T);\end{equation*}\begin{equation*}\tag{2} \lambda_T(x) = E^x\lbrack e^{-\lambda T} g(X_T) - \int^T_o e^{-\lambda s} c(X_s) ds\rbrack, \text{where} E^xT < \infty;\text{or}\end{equation*}\begin{equation*}\tag{3} \Phi_T(x) = E^x\lbrack g(X_T) - \int^T_0 c(X_s) ds\rbrack/E^xT, \text{where} 0 < E^xT < \infty;\end{equation*} where $g$ and $c$ are non-negative continuous functions defined on the state space of the process. Dynkin [9] studied criterion (1) where $\lambda = 0$ under the general assumption that $X$ is a standard process with a possibly random lifetime and under very weak continuity assumptions concerning the return function $g$. He showed that criterion (2) can often be transformed into criterion (1), and thus his approach is applicable in this case as well. This paper studies optimal stopping in a Markov process having a Feller transition function, a special case in Dynkin's development. We further specialize to exponentially distributed lifetimes which causes the appearance of a discount factor $e^{-\lambda t}$, with the natural interpretation that a dollar transaction $t$ time units hence has a present value of $e^{-\lambda t}$. Criterion (3) often has the meaning of a long-run time average return and a means of transforming this criterion into criterion (2) is given. Finally, some techniques for implementing Dynkin's approach in a variety of commonly occurring situations are given along with examples of their use.


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Howard M. Taylor. "Optimal Stopping in a Markov Process." Ann. Math. Statist. 39 (4) 1333 - 1344, August, 1968.


Published: August, 1968
First available in Project Euclid: 27 April 2007

zbMATH: 0177.45702
MathSciNet: MR232444
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1214/aoms/1177698259

Rights: Copyright © 1968 Institute of Mathematical Statistics

Vol.39 • No. 4 • August, 1968
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