Ticker Symbol of Stocks, Options and Futures – The story behind them.

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The Ticker Symbol is a common identifier used in financial marktes to identify all trading instruments. The ticker symbols are fromed using certain methods. Knowing those methods would make our job much easier especially if you are dealing with multiple classes instruments. The idea behind this article is to bring all of them together and discuss.

Supporting presentation from one of my classes Capital markets security ids.

What is ticker?
The TICKER term came from the sound of ticker tape machines that were used in stock exchanges a long time ago. These tapes displayed Stock information and each stock is identified by its symbol. Hence the Ticker Symbol.

The common alternate street terms are – Stock Symbol, Ticker Symbol, Trading Symbol, just Symbol or just Ticker.

(You can also download one of my class presentations on this topic.)

Lets see how these symbols are created for each type of instrument.

Stock Symbols:

The Stock symbol may contain two parts. The first part is knows as the root symbol and the second part is an additional information about the company which is explained later below.

Root Symbol: All trading stocks are assigned a root symbol like GE from General Electric. Usually all stocks traded on NYSE have 3 character wide root symbols and NASDAQ listed stocks have four character root symbol. Some examples are – C (Citigroup), WMT (Walmart), INTC (Intel)

Special Code: Sometimes additional information is tagged along with root symbol to represent additional details like the class of Shares, current status of the company etc. I have listed some commonly used special codes below.

A – Class A Shares B – Class B Shares
E – Delinquent SEC filing F – Foreign Security
G – First convertible bond H – Second convertible bond
I – Third convertible bond Q – In bankruptcy
W – Warrant X – Mutual Fund
Y – ADR (American Depositary Receipt) PK – Pink Sheet
NM – Nasdaq National Market SC – Nasdaq Small Cap

NYSE stocks separate this part with a period after root symbol, for example BKS.B for Class B stocks of Berkshier Hathway. The NASDAQ stocks simply append after the root symbol, for example GRVY is ADR of Gravity Ltd.

Option Symbol

The next most traded instruments are options and futures. Lets look at Option ticker symbol notation. The option ticker symbol represents four different things –

  • Underlying instrument like stock in case of stock option
  • Type of option whether it is Put or Call
  • Expiration month
  • Strike price

Lets look at the option symbol – MSQJG. In this symbol

  • First 3 characters ‘MSQ’ represent the underlying instrument symbol in this case it is Microsoft. This is usually a root symbol of the underlying security. But when stock prices grow out of available letters, additional root symbols will be introduced. in this case Microsoft has two symbols MSQ and MFQ.
  • Next letter ‘J’ represents the expiration month and the type of option whether it is call or put. In this example J is for October Call option. There are 24 letters that are used as shown in below table.
Expiration Month Code Table
Expiration Month Code Table
  • The last character is the strike price. it is bit trickier since it is again alphabet instead of number. the following table shows all the possible values for each letter. mostly options striker prices are very close to the current underlying instrument cash prices. based on the current price of the underlying and the corresponding letter is picked up. for example MSFT is trading at $25 the letter Y represents the $27.50 from the table.
Strike Price Code Table
Strike Price Code Table

 

Another point to note that, what happens if the stock split or reverse split happens? Excahnge will change the symbol of the option to represent the accurate strike price of the option.

Futures Ticker Symbol

Futures ticker has basically three parts.
– Underlying asset or the futures market eg: Commodities, Bonds etc
– Delivery month
– Delivery year

Lets go through it using example – the ticker “CLZ9” is a futures contract trading on NYMEX.

  • The first two letters “CL” represents Symbol of Crude Oil
  • The second letter “J” stands for a April delivery
  • The “9” stands for the year – 2009.

Another example “SFZ9” represents the currency futures contract of Swiss Franc with deliver Dec 2009.

Futures Delivery Month Codes are:

Futures Delivery Month Codes
Futrues Delivery Month Codes

Some sample futures contract symbols on Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) are:

  • US – U.S. TREASURY BONDS
  • TY – 10-YR TREASURY NOTES
  • FV – 5-YR TREASURY NOTES
  • TU – 2-YR TREASURY NOTES
  • FF – 30-DAY FED FUNDS
  • DJ – DOW JONES INDUSTRIAL

Just for your information all futures contracts are not available with all months delivery. You can find the current list from Exchange trading the futures contract.

You can download different exchange traded securities list from the following links:

Are there Bond Symbols?

Bonds are traded different way than stocks. Bonds are identified using CUSIP (explained in my other blog item).

I hope this was short and simple enough to get some idea. Feel free to send me your feedback.

-Khader Vali

References:

  1. NASDAQ Website – http://www.nasdaq.com/
  2. NYSE Website – http://www.nyse.com/
  3. CBOE Website – http://www.cboe.com/
  4. NYMEX Website – http://www.nymex.com/

10 COMMENTS

  1. Hello Khader,

    Ur articles were really useful for me to get an idea about stock identifiers. Heartful thanks!!

    Now, I am looking for a trade life cycle. What happens after a trade is successful ? The background operartions and the who does what? (Role of Custodians, Role of Clearing banks, Role of depostories).

    Kindly throw some lights on this topic

    cheers
    Maruthi

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