Monday, February 8, 2010

New Nomenclature for Option Symbols

For those of you who trade options; or even those who simply follow our weekly updates - you might have noticed a change in the symbol for options.  I am surprised this did not get more press, since I was totally caught off guard by it - but there appears to be a new nomenclature for attaching symbols to puts and calls.

Frankly, other than putting the symbol at the front end of the option symbol (which I like) the rest of the changes appear more friendly to HAL9000 than a human mind.  I think the old system for the last 2 letters of the previous 5 letter symbol married with the stock symbol at the front end would of been a worthy marriage.  Instead we have this mess below, as explained by Investopedia blog.


The Options Clearing Corporation has decided to remove the traditional 3-5 character option symbol formatting and introduce a new options symbology. The purpose of this change is to standardize the naming conventions of all options and to overcome the capacity limitations of the previous format.

The new structure of an option symbol will contain:

Stock Symbol: The first 1-6 characters will indicate underlying stock. This will be the stock’s ticker symbol
Year of expiration: next 2 character will indicates the option’s year of expiration
Day of expiration: next 2 characters indicates the option’s Day of expiration
Month of expiration and call/put indicator: The next character represents the month of expiration and whether the option is a call or put

■January: A (call), M (put)
■February: B (call), N (put)
■March: C (call), O (put)
■April: D (call), P (put)
■May: E (call), Q (put)
■June: F (call), R (put)
■July: G (call), S (put)
■August: H (call), T (put)
■September: I (call), U (put)
■October: J (call), V (put)
■November: K (call), W (put)
■December: L (call), X (put)

Strike Price: the final characters represents the strike price with decimals, if necessary

For example: OUP AW is a GOOG call option with a strike price of $500 that expires January 21, 2011.  Under the new system, OUP AW will be represented as GOOG1021A500.


Clear as mud!  Somewhere HAL9000 is rubbing his microchips together in glee.

Even more confusing - brokerages don't have to even display this new system to you, so now your Etrade account may differ from your XYZ brokerage. 

"Brokerage firms and data providers are allowed to implement their own variant of the new format of option symbols for public use. Therefore, not all brokerages will show their options in this exact format"


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