In the paragraphs below we attempt to shed some light on the very confusing subject of preferred and income securities ticker symbols and security names. On the QuantumOnline (QOL) website, and I'm sure all other websites, preferred ticker symbols cause the most confusion and generate more questions than most other problems combined.
Preferred Stock Ticker Symbols
Preferred stock ticker symbols are confusing - to everyone. There is no single system of ticker symbols in use for preferred stocks. The correct ticker symbol for a preferred stock depends on whose information you are accessing. The NYSE preferred ticker symbol format often used to refer to preferred and income securities is the xxxPRx, xxPRx, xPRx, xxPR, etc. format where the x's represent any letter. The basic problem with this NYSE ticker symbol system is that it is incompatible with the Nasdaq ticker system where symbols in the xxPRx, xPRx, xxPR formats are not preferred stocks. Therefore a single ticker symbol system incorporating the NYSE symbol system can not be used as a universal system for anyone listing both NYSE and Nasdaq preferred securities. The system even precludes any fancy programming to identify preferreds without requiring the input of the stock exchange in conjunction with the ticker symbol.
One further problem with preferred ticker symbols is that various information sources will throw in spaces in the symbols when they refer to an income security's ticker symbol. For example, you will see a xxxPRx ticker symbol referred to as xxx PR x, xxx PRx, etc. This type of reference can come from the company issuing the security, from the financial media (especially general newspapers), and even from the stock exchanges themselves. Those spaces may be fine for people but computers have no sense of humor at all concerning them and the computer just doesn't find the security you want when you add spaces to the ticker symbol.
As a result of the above, there are a considerable variety of preferred ticker symbols in use. The NYSE uses ticker symbols in the form of xxxPRx for preferred stocks. We use a ticker symbol of xxx-x for the same stock. Why? The basic reason is actually that our quote service provides prices to us using the xxx-x system (which is probably the most common general ticker symbol system). To make things more interesting, you can enter either xxxPRx or xxx-x on the NYSE website to find the same preferred - they both work (note: this is no longer true as of February 2004 as the NYSE has apparently discontinued the use of the dash in symbols). The NYSE Amex uses a xxxpx system, Yahoo! uses a xxx-px system, Fidelity uses a xxxPRx system, Charles Schwab uses both the xxx/PRx and the xxx+x system, S&P uses the xxx-x system, Quicken uses a xxx PRx system (that's a space), Scottrade uses the xxxpx system, others use the xxx'x or an xxxx (they just drop the PR, -, etc.) symbol system and there are other symbol systems in use.
To attempt to make these differing symbol systems clearer, we have provided three examples in the table below of the ticker symbol for three specific preferreds on different company's systems. The first example of a preferred stock's ticker symbol is for the Alabama Power Co. 5.20% Preferred Stock's ticker symbol which is ALP-N in our system, ALPPRN on the NYSE, ALPpN if it was on the NYSE Amex, ALP-pN on Yahoo, ALPPRN on Fidelity, ALP/PRN or ALP+N on Charles Schwab, ALP-N on S&P, ALP PRN on Quicken, and ALPpN in Scottrade. A second example of preferred stock ticker symbols would be the ABC Bancorp Capital Trust I 9.00% Trust Preferred Securities' ticker symbol which is BHC- in our system, BHCPR on the NYSE, BHCp if it was on the NYSE Amex, BHC-p on Yahoo, BHCPR on Fidelity, BHC/PR or BHC+ on Charles Schwab, BHC- on S&P, BHC PR on Quicken, and BHCp in Scottrade. A third example of preferred stock ticker symbols would be the Citigroup Capital IX 6% TruPS Capital Securities's ticker symbol which is C-S in our system, CPRS on the NYSE, CpS if it was on the NYSE Amex, C-pS on Yahoo, CPRS on Fidelity, C/PRS or C+S on Charles Schwab, C-S on S&P, C PRS on Quicken, and CpS in Scottrade.
The following table lists the above examples in table form which hopefully makes the examples easier to see and understand.
5.20% Pfd Stk
9.00% Pfd Sec
|Citigroup Capital IX
|JPMorgan||PR||ALP PRN||BHC PR||C PRS|
|Quicken||PR||ALP PRN||BHC PR||C PRS|
We hope the above discussion provides the QuantumOnline.com user with some insight into the wide variety of preferred ticker symbols in use. You don't have to like the differences in preferred ticker systems but you do have to live with them.
NOTE: The above discussion applys only to those securities using a preferred designator such as a dash, a PR, a _p, etc. (ALP-N, ALPPRN, ALP_pN, etc.) and has no relevance to those ticker symbols that do not use a preferred designator. Examples of income securities without preferred designators in their ticker symbols include third party trust preferreds (GMB, TZG, PFH, etc.), exchange-traded debt securities (GFZ, AFE, IKM, etc.). These symbols without preferred designators are used in all data sources without change.
How to Find What Preferred Ticker Symbol System a Website Uses - To find out what preferred ticker symbol system a website uses (if the site includes income securities) you can do a search for ticker symbols by security or company name. This type of search is labeled by a variety of names on different websites. The NYSE has their "Symbol Lookup", the Nasdaq has their "Company Search", the NYSE Amex has their "Symbol Lookup", the OTCBB has their "Symbol Directory", the Pink Sheets has their "Symbol Lookup", and Yahoo has their "Symbol Lookup" and QuantumOnline has our "Symbol Lookup" under the Quick Search. We find that searching for "citigroup" brings the best results. Just enter "citigroup" (without the quote marks) in the search and the search will produce a list of ticker symbols and security names. Then, just look over the list to see what ticker symbol system the website uses for income securities.
Preferred and Income Security Names
There is no specific name for a preferred stock or any other income security. If anything can be considered the official name of a security, it would be the title or description used in the IPO prospectus. Unfortunately, the description or name used in the prospectus can sometimes be a couple hundred characters in length. QuantumOnline uses a field length for a security name that is 80 characters in length. That is probably twice the length used by most websites but it is still considerably too short to accommodate many full security names. This means that most names are so shortened that it is often difficult to determine what security is being described.
Security names are also used rather loosely. Just recently, a magazine columnist recommended Raytheon's convertible preferred stock which paid 8.25% and converted in May 2004. One of our users went to check out the stock on our website, couldn't find it, and emailed me to ask why we did not cover the stock. After a little research we found the security. The name on our website and on the prospectus was the RC Trust I 8.25% Equity Security Units (Note: we have now changed the name to Raytheon). The security's name on the NYSE was Raytheon Company. Yahoo used the name RAYTHEON PR.
Another confusing aspect of preferred names involves trust preferreds. For example, Bank of America Corp. issues their trust preferreds under the name BAC Capital Trust (i.e. BAC Capital Trust IV, 5 7/8% Capital Securities). Use of a trust name is fine from a legal purpose but it does make it awkward to relate a newspaper listing that might be BAC Cap Tr IV to the Bank of America security you are looking for.
So if you have wondered why you are confused and have difficulty finding income securities, now you know. For your information QuantumOnline uses the full security name from the prospectus whenever possible and a shortened version when necessary to fit within 80 characters.