Introduction to US stock symbol (ticker)

A stock ticker symbol is a unique combination of letters assigned to a security for trading purposes. Stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) can have four or fewer letters. Nasdaq-listed securities can have up to four or five characters. A stock ticker helps investors search for a specific stock online and perhaps to enable a trade using the brokerage's website.

Stock symbols also enable traders to differentiate between classes of stock. For example, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) has two different classes of shares listed on the NASDAQ – it's class A shares trade as BRK.A, while its class B shares (that have fewer voting rights) trade as BRK.B. Moreover, Alphabet Inc. (formerly Google) has two classes of shares trading on the Nasdaq with stock symbols GOOG and GOOGL. Common shareholders of GOOG have no voting rights since GOOG shares are Class C shares, while GOOGL shares are Class A shares and have one vote each.

In addition, stock tickers can be used to convey other information about a company’s status as well. For instance, if the letter “Q” follows the stock symbol, it is an indication that the company is bankrupt. A stock ticker ending with “Y” is used for an American Depository Receipt (ADR). If a ticker name has an additional alphabet “E”, it highlights a failure to comply with financial reporting regulations—such companies are about to get delisted from the exchange. 

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