A stock symbol or ticker symbol is a unique shorthand code used to identify shares of a publicly-traded corporation on a stock market.
A stock symbol may either be comprised of letters, numbers or a combination of both.
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U.S stock symbol history
In the United States, modern letter-only ticker symbols were developed by Standard and Poor's (S&P) to bring a national standard to investing. Previously, a single company could have many different ticker symbols as they varied between the dozens of individual stock markets.
The S&P system was later standardized by the securities industry and modified as years passed.
|# of Letters||Exchange||1||NYSE|
|3||NYSE or AMEX|
|5 or more||(special)|
- MSFT - Microsoft
- KO - Coca-Cola Company
- BRK.A - Berkshire Hathaway
- A - Agilent Technologies Incorporated
Interpreting the symbol
For most stock symbols, the letters are simple identifiers. One- or two-letter symbols always trade on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), three letter codes may trade on either the NYSE or American Stock Exchange (AMEX), Four- and five-letter codes trade on the Nasdaq, although five-letter ticker symbols are usually a special class of stock. For example, the ticker symbols of mutual funds must be five letters long and end in "X".
Sometimes the stock symbol has become more recognizable than a company's real name. For instance, more people may know the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company by the way its three-letter ticker ("MMM") is pronounced on Wall Street, "3M." International Business Machines officially changed its corporate name to "IBM" to match its ticker symbol.
|NYSE "behind the dot" or Nasdaq 5th-letter codes and other special codes|