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 stock ticker symbols.
When a company is first listed on a stock exchange, the company is assigned a unique stock symbol. No other company listed on that exchange can ever use that ticker symbol, and thus all participants in the stock market have a universal, foolproof way to correctly identify companies on an exchange. The ticker symbols are chosen by the companies themselves and can be as few as one letter or as many as five. For example, Ford Motors is simply ‘F'. Sometimes the ticker resembles the company name (Microsoft uses ‘MSFT'), while others are used somewhat as a marketing ploy (Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc, the makers of Budweiser Beer, trades under ‘BUD'). Another reason for the use of standardized stock symbols is that it minimizes trading mix-ups. One company's name may be quite similar to another's - in spelling, in sound or in an abbreviated format.
Note: Newspapers and other publications often put a company's abbreviation in brackets after the company's first reference in a story. For example, a newspaper may denote Hewlett-Packard Incorporated as HP. This is NOT necessarily the ticker symbol, but rather a shortened standard name for the firm in question. To avoid incorrect stock selection, we recommend that you always look up a company's ticker symbol. It's also much easier to enter shorter symbols. Imagine having to type in "Hewlett-Packard Company" instead of ‘HPQ'.
Using the Symbol Look Up
To buy shares of a company you're interested in, you must know its ticker symbol. Never guess a ticker symbol - you could end up buying shares of the wrong company. Fortunately, all major brokerages offer symbol lookup tools with their accounts. Let's find some ticker symbols using the Simulator's Symbol Lookup tool.
Let's research the ticker symbols for two stocks: Nike and Pier 1 Imports.
First: Click on Symbol Lookup, which can be found by clicking on the Stock Research Tab, in order to proceed to the symbol lookup screen.
Now, type "Nike" into the search field and click on Lookup Symbol and click search.
You should see a search result similar to those shown here:
As you can see, Nike trades under the ticker symbol ‘NKE'. We want to buy NKE, so click on Trade under the stock chart to proceed to the order input screen. Enter and confirm a market buy order for 100 shares of NKE.
You should end up at the Portfolio Summary screen. Now go back to the Symbol Lookup screen and search for ‘Pier 1'. You should see the following results after you click the search button:
Click on Trade to proceed to the order input screen or go through the trade stock procedure and confirm a market buy order for 100 shares of PIR.
Now that you've learned about stock symbols and how to find them, let's look at how to determine which stocks you want to buy based on your analysis of financial information.
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