Stock Option Trading News

Lions, and tigers and no option symbols! Oh My!

Option symbols are going away…
That’s right, stock options symbols as we’ve known them are going away. Beginning on February 12, 2010 the current option symbols will be replaced with new stock option symbols. The change is nothing to be scared about — not nearly as scary as Dorothy’s lions and tigers and bears.

Old vs. New…
The old stock options symbols were contained in 3-to-5 characters. The new symbols will be generated with 9-to-22 characters.

The old stock options symbol format consisted of:

  • Option Root – One to three characters representing underlying stock
  • Month of Expiration & Call/Put – One character representing month of expiration & call/put
  • Strike Price – One character representing the strike price

For example, a 2010 call option for Intel (INTC) with a month of expiration of January and a strike price of $17.5, the option would be represented as:

Option Root


Month of Expiration &



Strike Price



The call option symbol would be entered, traded and listed as NQAW.

New Format…
The new stock options symbol contains the following components:

  • Symbol – One to six symbol for the underlying security (e.g. INTC)
  • Year of Expiration – Two characters representing expiration year
  • Month of Expiration – Two characters representing expiration month
  • Day of Expiration – Two characters for the expiration day
  • Call/Put Indicator – One character for Call[C] or Put[P]
  • Strike Price – One to nine characters for the strike price, including a decimal character if needed

For Intel example as discussed above, the new symbol structure would look like:

New Symbol Structure…




Year of



Month of



Day of



Call[C] /






INTC 10 01 16 C 17.5

The option symbol using the new format would be:


If you would like to learn more detailed information related to the new stock options symbol format, you can check out this link: New Option Symbol Format.

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Complicated – Not Really…
Wow, the new stock options symbols seem a lot more complicated than the old symbols, but PowerOptions is changing its tools to make using the new symbols very easy.

We’ll illustrate entering a covered call position into PowerOptions’ portfolio tool to show you how easy it is. A user would select the “My Portfolio” tab, the portfolio of interest and the strategy in the usual manner. We’ll enter a covered call position for the Intel example discussed above.

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The covered call entry page shown below is then displayed to the user:


After entering the stock symbol, INTC for this example, and choosing “Select Option”, the user is prompted with the following pop-up shown below:


A user seeking an option with a February expiration would click “Feb 20, 2010 (37 Days)”, as shown below, for example.


For our Intel example, we want a covered call with an expiration month of January and a strike price of $17.50, so we would select 17.50 from the available choices as shown below:


After selecting the desired stock symbol and call option, a user would be presented with the following screen:


The entered stock symbol and the selected option are now displayed as shown above.

A user would enter the # of shares, # of contracts, commissions/fees and then select “Submit”, after which the following would be displayed:


The format for the portfolio display is very similar to the old format, but you will notice the column previously labeled as “Issue Symbol” has been renamed “Security” and an option symbol is not displayed as was displayed previously.

We hope the change from the old option symbols to the new entry format is easy and painless for you. The stock option brokers are also transitioning to the new entry format and revising their tools as needed. Hopefully, we can all click our heels together like Dorothy during the symbol changeover and everything will work smoothly.

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[tags] symbol, brokers, INTC, Intel Corp. [/tags]


  1. Greg Zerenner

    So far, it appears that each broker is coming up with their own “symbol” to show their clients. Also, only Schwab and Fidelity appear to offer a choice for clients to actually type or paste a “symbol” into a trade or watchlist screen. Otherwise, all of the other online brokers we have examined are offering a method for finding options like what we are offering. That is, a user interface that is much like an Options Chain so the user can easily click the desired option, rather than entering a symbol.

    As each broker makes their standard available, we will try to show that standard format on the Option Detail page of PowerOptions. So, if a subscriber really prefers to have a “symbol” they can copy and paste, they can, but again, the standard seems to be focused around a graphical interface to “click” an option for trading, rather than entering a symbol like before.

  2. Greg Zerenner

    We are scheduling some site downtime for Thurs. Feb. 11th so we can update for the OSI. Expected downtime is about 1 to 2 hours and will begin after 5pm Eastern so no market hours will be lost.

  3. Mark Fields

    So, instead of taking your best shot at presenting the new format as best you can, you’ve decided to take the easy way out and not provide a symbol at all?
    Does that make sense? Fidelity, for example, uses your example:
    NQ100220C20 for the feb 20 call. Why not at least attempt to provide a framework for the symbol. When there’s a minute left in the trading day, I don’t want to have to try to put together a symbol to trade. There’s just no
    time! That’s why your service is worth $80.00 a month to me. I can get all the research for free on the net!

    Mark Fields

  4. Mark Fields

    Fidelity doesn’t even use the old “INTC” root. It uses NQ!

  5. Mike Phillips


    We provide an option symbol for Fidelity and Schwab.

    You can access the option symbol from the option chain by selecting the More Info button, then Research.

    You can access the option symbol form the search tool by selecting the More Info button, then Research, then Option Detail.

    The symbols are displayed at the top and to the left of the table.

    Mike Phillips

  6. Mike Phillips


    Some brokers are still using the old root symbols. The old roots will eventually expire and the new symbol roots will be used. So eventually the root for Intel will be “INTC”.

    Mike Phillips

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