Reading Options Symbols

Options Symbols - Definition

A string of alphabets that define specific options contracts. Can be referred to as the name of an options contract.

Options Symbols - Introduction

Options symbols are "names" given to each specific options contracts traded over an options exchange. It is much like the stock symbols that represents each traded stock in the stock market. For example, the symbol for stocks of Apple is AAPL while the symbol for its October2009 $185 strike price call options is APVJQ. Yes, options symbols are made up of a string of alphabets that are made up using a specific methodology. In this options trading tutorial, we shall explore reading options symbols through learning what the alphabets in a call option and put option symbol mean.

Options Symbol Explained

The string of 5 alphabets that make up an options symbol represents 3 defining components; Stock, Expiration and Strike. This is the same convention for both call options and put options.

The first 3 alphabets defines the underlying stock, followed by a single alphabet that defines the expiration month and a single alphabet that defines the strike price.

The symbol for AAPL's October2009 $185 strike price call options is APVJQ. Deciphering this options symbol tells us that the following information:

reading options symbols

APV : Underlying stock is AAPL
J : Expiration month is October
Q : Strike price ends with "85", which in this case would be $185.

OppiE's NoteDifferent countries would have a different convention for the naming of stocks and options symbols. This tutorial is directed solely towards options in the US market and accurate as at Sep 2009.

The expiration month and strike price symbols are the most straight forward in a plain vanilla options symbol and can be deciphered using the tables below:

Expiration Month Codes
January A M
February B N
March C O
April D P
May E Q
June F R
July G S
August H T
September I U
October J V
November K W
December L X

Strike Price Codes
Price Code
5 105 205 305 405 A
10 110 210 310 410 B
15 115 215 315 415 C
20 120 220 320 420 D
25 125 225 325 425 E
30 130 230 330 430 F
35 135 235 335 435 G
40 140 240 340 440 H
45 145 245 345 445 I
50 150 250 350 450 J
55 155 255 355 455 K
60 160 260 360 460 L
65 165 265 365 465 M
70 170 270 370 470 N
75 175 275 375 475 O
80 180 280 380 480 P
85 185 285 385 485 Q
90 190 290 390 490 R
95 195 295 395 495 S
100 200 300 400 500 T
7.5 37.5 67.5 97.5 127.5 U
12.5 42.5 72.5 102.5 132.5 V
17.5 47.5 77.5 107.5 137.5 W
22.5 52.5 82.5 112.5 142.5 X
27.5 57.5 87.5 117.5 147.5 Y
32.5 62.5 92.5 122.5 152.5 Z

The first 3 letters representing the underlying stock is the complex part. For stocks listed in NYSE or AMEX where the stock symbols consist of only 3 letters, the first 3 letters of the options symbol would be the same as the stock symbol.

For instance, Wyndham Worldwide Corp listed on the NYSE trades under the stock symbol of WYN. As such, all of its options symbols contains WYN as its first 3 letters. WYN's October2009 $15 strike price call option is quoted under the symbol of WYNJC and its October2009 $20 strike price put option is quoted under the symbol of WYNVD. As you can see, both options symbols starts with WYN as their first 3 letters. This is known as its options root. Using the tables above, we can clearly see that the J in WYNJC represents October and C represents $15. This makes options symbols of standardized stock options of stocks listed in NYSE and AMEX extremely easy to decipher.

The First 3 Letters of Options Symbols Aren't Always the Stock Symbol

There are 2 instances where the first 3 letters of an option symbol isn't exactly the same as the symbol of its underlying stock. Firstly, when the stock symbol is more than 3 letters. Secondly, when the option isn't a plain vanilla option.

Stocks with Symbols More Than 3 Letters
There are stocks that have symbols more than 3 letters. 3M Corp is one example trading under the symbol of COMS. When a stock has a symbol of more than 3 letters, special options roots will be assigned to them. Stock options of 3M Corp trades with the options root of "THQ". All of 3M Corp's standardized plain vanilla options would be preceded with the letters THQ. For example, 3M Corp's October2009 $5.00 strike price call options are traded under the symbol of THQJA. Notice that instead of the stock symbol COMS, 3M Corp's options are preceded with THQ. For a list of these symbols, please refer to CBOE's Options Symbol Directory.

When Option Isn't A Plain Vanilla Option
In options trading, standardized options which are not exotics, LEAPS, quarterlies or adjusted options are known as plain vanilla options. All non-plain vanilla options symbols would be preceded with their own unique codes. Read more about Options Distinguished by Expiration Cycles.

Options Symbols Questions

:: How To Refer To Options Symbols?

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