Understanding Symbols

Learn more about Symbols:

Stock Symbols

Ticker symbols for stocks denote a particular security, and are alphabetical in nature. Symbols can vary from 1 to 5 characters in length, with shorter symbols (1 to 3) typically denoting that they trade on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or other listed exchange, while 4 and 5 character symbols indicate that the security trades on the NASDAQ.

Examples:

Symbol Description
A Agilent Technologies
GE General Electric Company
DIS Walt Disney Company
MSFT Microsoft Corp
CHINA CDC Corporation Class A

Preferred Stocks

Preferred stocks are securities that provide a specific fixed dividend that is paid before any dividends are paid to common stock holders, and which are treated with preference over common stock in the event of liquidation. In most cases, unlike common stock, preferred stocks do not have voting rights and although preferred stock provides a set dividend, the dividend is not required to be paid if the company does not possess the financial ability.

Symbology for preferred stock normally incorporates the common stock ticker symbol as well as a signifier as to the type of preferred as many companies have multiple classes of preferred stock. To avoid confusion between a common share and a preferred share, a preferred stock quote is obtained on optionsXpress by entering the ticker root, followed by the letter ā€œpā€ (case sensitive) then followed by the class of preferred share.

Examples:

Symbol* Description
AMBpL AMB Property Corp Preferred L
AMBpM AMB Property Corp Preferred M
FpA Ford Motor Co Preferred A
FpS Ford Motor Co Preferred C
AAp Alcoa Inc Preferred**

* Please keep in mind that ticker symbols for preferred stocks on optionsXpress are case sensitive; the symbol root and class must be capitalized while the "p" to denote the security is preferred must be in lower case.

** Some preferred stocks do not have a class designation.

Stock Classes

Some stocks have more than one class issued (e.g. A and B shares).* These classes are signified by entering a slash (/) between the symbol and class.

Examples:

Symbol Description
BRK/A Berkshire Hathaway Inc Class A
BRK/B Berkshire Hathaway Inc Class B

* Class A shares are not sold to the public and cannot be traded.

NASDAQ-Specific Symbols

Symbols on the NASDAQ are always 4 or 5 characters, with the fifth character a further qualifier about the stock. Below are a listing of letters and what they represent.

Qualifier Description
A Class A
B Class B
C Exempt from NASDAQ listing Qualifications
D Existing stock that has been re-issued (e.g. mergers, reverse splits, etc)
E Company is delinquent in its required filings with the SEC
F Denotes foreign security
G First convertible bond
H Second convertible bond
I Third convertible bond
J Voting shares
K Non-voting shares
L Miscellaneous designation
M Fourth preferred
N Third preferred
O Second preferred
P First preferred
Q In bankruptcy
R Rights
S Shares of beneficial interest
T Trades with warrants or rights
U Units
V When issued
W Designates warrant
Y ADR (American Depository Receipt)
Z Miscellaneous designation

Weekly Options

Weekly options (also called short dated options) are very similar to regular options and also follow an easy to understand pattern. The main difference lies in the option root.

Weekly Options Symbols

The basic parts of a weekly option symbol are:

Option Root (Root+Week Indicator) + Expiration Date Code + Strike price code
Option Root Week Expiration Date Strike Price
XYZ A G F


The main difference in the symbology for a weekly option is that the third letter represents which week the option represents:

Weekly Indicator Expiration Week Listing Day
Week A Week One Last Friday of month prior to Exp. Month
Week B Week Two First Friday of Exp. Month
Week D Week Three Third Friday of Exp. Month
Week E Week Four (if 5-Friday Month) Fourth Friday of Exp. Month


Currently, both the SPX and OEX is available for weekly options. More underlying positions are expected to be added at a later date.

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Any stock or options symbol displayed are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to portray a recommendation to buy or sell a particular security.

The above content is provided for educational and informational purposes only. We offer no investment, tax or legal advice, and nothing in this material should be construed as such. Materials written for optionsXpress, Inc. by Robert Sullivan. All rights reserved, 2014, optionsXpress, Inc.