A:

W

hen a ticker symbol changes it's usually not a good sign. Tickers of publicly traded companies generally only change for one of four reasons:

  1. The company has merged with another company.
  2. The company had a name change.
  3. The company has been delisted (indicated by symbols such as .PK, .OB or .OTCBB).
  4. The company has filed financial statements late or even gone bankrupt.

When a ticker symbol changes because of a merger, the company being acquired usually gives up its ticker symbol in favor of the acquirer's symbol. Corporate actions such as mergers can often be positive for a company, especially if the company is taken over for a premium over the share price.

Sometimes, a ticker symbol changes because the company has changed its name. For example, when AOL Time Warner dropped the AOL and became simply Time Warner, it changed its symbol from AOL to TWX. A company name change generally doesn't mean much, though you might interpret it as positive sign if it reflects a positive change in the company's overall strategy.

If your ticker symbol has had letters added to it such as .PK, .OB or .OTCBB, this means the stock has been de-listed and is no longer trading on the exchange on which you purchased it, but rather on the less liquid and more volatile over-the-counter market. More specifically, a .PK indicates that your stock is now trading on the pink sheets, while an .OB suffix or .OTCBB prefix represents the over-the-counter bulletin board. A stock that has been de-listed is like a baseball player who has been sent from the major leagues to the minor leagues. For some reason, the stock is no longer worthy of trading on a major exchange such as the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq, probably because it failed to maintain the exchange's requirements. (To see these requirements, see What are the listing requirements for the Nasdaq?)

You may have also noticed that Nasdaq-listed securities have four or five characters. In this case, the fifth character often communicates a piece of information, and it can also mean something is wrong with the company. For example, if a "Q" has been added, this means that a company is in bankruptcy proceedings, and "E" means the company is late on its SEC filings. Below is a complete list of fifth symbols on the Nasdaq and what they mean:

A - Class A
B - Class B
C - Issuer qualifications exceptions
D - New
E - Delinquent in required filings with the SEC
F - Foreign
G - First convertible bond
H - Second convertible bond
I - Third convertible bond
J - Voting
K - Nonvoting
L - Miscellaneous situations, such as depositary receipts, stubs, additional warrants and units
M - Fourth class of preferred shares
N - Third class preferred of preferred shares
O - Second class preferred of preferred shares
P - First class preferred of preferred shares
Q - Bankruptcy proceedings
R - Rights
S - Shares of beneficial interest
T - With warrants or with rights
U - Units
VWhen issued and when distributed
W - Warrants
X - Mutual Fund
Y - ADR (American Depositary Receipt)
Z - Miscellaneous situations, such as depositary receipts, stubs, additional warrants and units

RELATED FAQS
  1. What are the fifth-letter identifiers on the Nasdaq?

    All of the companies traded on the Nasdaq have four-lettered tickers, which are representative of the actual company. For ... Read Answer >>
  2. Do hedge funds have ticker symbols?

    Discover whether or not hedge funds have ticker symbols, where you can find ticker symbols and the significance of a ticker ... Read Answer >>
  3. Why do all mutual fund tickers have an X at the end?

    It's true that all mutual funds' tickers have an X at the end of their symbol. The reason for this is to distinguish between ... Read Answer >>
  4. Why do some stock symbols have three letters while others have four? What is the ...

    Stocks found on the New York and American Stock Exchange will normally have symbols with three letters or fewer. On the other ... Read Answer >>
  5. What do all of the letters in a stock option ticker symbol mean?

    The option ticker explains four main things about the option: the underlying stock, whether it is a call or a put option, ... Read Answer >>
  6. What does it mean when a stock symbol has a .PK after it?

    The .PK is an example of a suffix representing where the security is traded - an over-the-counter (OTC) network or an international ... Read Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Trading

    Keeping Securities Clear With Ticker Symbols

    A ticker symbol is a group of characters that represent a specific, publicly traded security that’s listed on an exchange.
  2. Markets

    Translating Ticker Talk

    Stock tickers can say a lot about a company in just a few letters. Find out how to read them.
  3. Trading

    Simulator How-To Guide: Ticker Symbol Look Up

    As you noticed while you were buying shares of Wal-Mart, all brokerages (simulated or not) require you to input the company's stock symbol to place any trade. In fact, all stock exchanges employ ...
  4. Investing

    Understanding The Ticker Tape

    We explain the meaning and use of that reel of symbols whizzing across your TV or computer screen.
  5. Investing

    Understanding The 2010 Options Symbology

    There is a wealth of information in the expanded option symbols, but they should make things easier for traders.
  6. Investing

    The Dirt On Delisted Stocks

    Listed securities are "the cream of the crop". Find out how a firm can lose that status and why you should be wary.
  7. Investing

    Digging For Profitable Delistings

    Deregistration can provide opportunities for savvy investors. We'll show you how to cash in.
  8. Investing

    Understanding Off-Balance Sheet Financing

    For anyone who was invested in Enron, off-balance sheet (OBS) financing is a scary term. Off-balance sheet financing means a company does not include a liability on its balance sheet. It is an ...
  9. Investing

    Understanding Organizational Behavior

    Organizational behavior is the study of how humans interact in group environments.
  10. Markets

    The Over-The-Counter Market: An Introduction To Pink Sheets

    Being early to a party may not be hip, but being early on a rising stock certainly is.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Ticker Symbol

    An arrangement of characters (usually letters) representing a ...
  2. Hard-Coded Stock

    This is a term that refers to a company's stock symbol or ticker ...
  3. Z

    A Nasdaq stock symbol specifying that the stock is a miscellaneous ...
  4. L

    The fifth character added to a stock symbol listed on the Nasdaq ...
  5. O

    A component of a stock symbol that indicates the shares of that ...
  6. I

    A Nasdaq stock symbol specifying that it is the third preferred ...
Hot Definitions
  1. Duration

    A measure of the sensitivity of the price (the value of principal) of a fixed-income investment to a change in interest rates. ...
  2. Dove

    An economic policy advisor who promotes monetary policies that involve the maintenance of low interest rates, believing that ...
  3. Cyclical Stock

    An equity security whose price is affected by ups and downs in the overall economy. Cyclical stocks typically relate to companies ...
  4. Front Running

    The unethical practice of a broker trading an equity based on information from the analyst department before his or her clients ...
  5. After-Hours Trading - AHT

    Trading after regular trading hours on the major exchanges. The increasing popularity of electronic communication networks ...
  6. Omnibus Account

    An account between two futures merchants (brokers). It involves the transaction of individual accounts which are combined ...
Trading Center