What is a fifth letter ticker identifier?
The standard stock symbol listed on the New York Stock Exchange is composed of just three letters. The NASDAQ listings are composed of four letters. This is a quick way to distinguish where stocks trade between the two major exchanges. However, the NASDAQ and Over-the-Counter (OTC) exchanges also add an additional letter at the end of the ticker when there are additional circumstances regarding the stock structure or company.
Day traders won’t run into too many of these, but it is important to be aware of what the fifth letters mean. There are situations where the identifier can make a major material difference. The fifth letter is usually indicated with a period or dash to make it stand out from the normal four-letter symbol. For example, the stock ticker may normally be VXYZ, but the fifth letter can change the symbol to appear like VXYZ-B or .B, depending on your quote platform. As always, check with your broker. The NYSE will in rare cases added a fourth letter to the ticker, but opts to change the three letter symbol.
A complete list of ticker codes can be found here.
Most Common Fifth Letter Ticker Codes
These are some of the most common additional fifth letter ticker codes and what they mean:
A – Class A Shares
Most common stock is assumed to be class A shares, which usually grants voting rights and represents ownership in the underlying company. When a stock has the Class A shares, it usually means Class B shares exist and need the fifth letter to differentiate between the two.
B – Class B Shares
Class B shares are usually preferred stock, which acts more like a bond as it distributes a monthly/quarterly yield like a fixed income instrument. Many preferreds also include the option to convert Class B shares into Class A shares when certain terms are met, like conversion price or time limit. Class B shares may or may not contain voting rights but usually contain less voting rights that Class A shares.
D – New Issue
The NASDAQ issues this temporary fifth letter to indicate a corporate reorganization.
This fifth letter is issued when the company is delinquent in filing required SEC documents. Though it is usually a bearish situation as investors confidence is shaken, it is not always the case in certain situations like recognizing additional revenues or positive tax outcomes.
J – Voting
This temporary suffix is used to indicate a shareholder vote situation.
Q – Bankruptcy
This is potentially every investor’s nightmare as it indicates that the company has filed for bankruptcy. The NASDAQ now issues a financial status indicator rather than the Q suffix, but other exchanges like OTC still utilize this fifth letter.
V – When Issued
Stocks with the V suffix indicate shares are scheduled to split. These stocks tend to attract speculators seeking to benefit from splits, spin-offs or similar corporate changes.
W – Warrants
This symbol indicates that the instrument is a warrant. Warrants are similar to options the give the holder the right, but not the obligation, to purchase the underlying shares of common stock are a pre-determined price, usually at a discount to the market. Warrants are issued directly by the company to raise capital.