How to Read the New Option Symbols

02/15/2010 10:26 am EST

Focus: OPTIONS

Price Headley

Founder and Chief Analyst, BigTrends.com

Since last Friday, option symbols have changed and you will now be seeing the new options symbols across all platforms from here on out.

I like the changes overall, as it was getting really difficult to figure out an option’s root before, and now you just use the stock symbol as the starting point for any newly created options from here on out (existing options are converted, but some Nasdaq symbols are still using some old options roots in case you are trading options in the future that were previously in existence before the changeover).

Here's how it works:

Stock Symbol , Year, Month, Day, Put/Call, Strike Price

So if you're buying the Amazon (AMZN) April 125 call, the symbol will become:

AMZN 10 04 17 C 125

(Note that already existing options for AMZN are still using the old ZQN root, but that will change for any new options listed in the future to the stock symbol)

Also note that the expiration date for options is actually the Saturday following the third Friday of the month, so that's how you determine the proper expiration day to plug in.

All in all, this should be a good thing for the options trader to quickly figure out any new options symbol.

By Price Headley of BigTrends.com

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