When a company is listed on a stock exchange, it is given a symbol that’s used in the stock’s trading. Customers, brokers, mutual fund companies and others use this symbol to identify a company when buying or selling shares of stock.
Many financial websites have tools you can use to look up a company’s symbol (see Resources).
The current trading price of a company and other related information is accessed by using the company’s stock symbol. A quote gives you the current price, the bid, the ask, the volume, the high and low of the day and the most recent sale. More detailed quotes supply beta (risk), price-to-earnings ratio and dividend information.
Many companies have very recognizable symbols based on their company’s business. For example, Harley Davidson’s symbol is HOG and Cheesecake Factory’s symbol is CAKE.
New York Stock Exchange and American Stock Exchange stock symbols traditionally contained only one to three letters, while NASDAQ and over-the-counter market symbols usually had four letter. This is no longer standard.
If a stock has options (a trading vehicle on the underlying stock), the option root symbol may be different from the stock symbol. Many financial websites also provide option symbols.
The first listed company on the New York Stock Exchange was Bank of New York (BK). The longest listed company on the New York Stock Exchange is Con Edison (ED), first listed as the New York Gas Light Company.