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Symbols and Contractual Features

There are two parts to this write-up:  Looking up symbols and Interpreting the Contractual Features of an option.

Looking up Symbols

Step 1:  Go to the CBOE's Quote Table.

DO NOT ASSUME that the Index or stock symbol is the same as the option symbol.  For example, Microsoft's stock symbol is MSFT and it's option symbol is MSQ.  Similarly, for the case of the S&P500 index the index symbol is SPX but the option symbol (for non LEAPS i.e., shorter maturity options) is SXM.

If you know the stock or index symbol continue with Step 2 otherwise continue with Step 1a.

Step 1a: If you first need the symbols directory click on: symbols

For example, if you need index option information for the S&P100 or S&P500 index click on: symbol directory

Scroll down until you see the Standard and Poors.  The 100 is OEX, and the 500 is SPX for shorter maturity options (i.e., non LEAPS).  You can also read off the style (European or American) so that you can see that the S&P100 is an American option whereas the S&P500 index option's (SPX) are of the European style.  You can also check that Microsoft is MSFT and the options are MSQ.

Now continue with Step 2.

Step 2:  Enter the stock symbol or index symbol you are interested in getting the option symbol for.  For example, MSFT is Microsoft.  Click here to enter the symbol.  Check that the default check box setting is List near term at-the-money options.  Then click on Submit.

Step 3:  Scroll down the page that appears and then you will see that the root code for Microsoft options is:  MSQ.  You do not need to worry about the letters that appear after the blank following MSQ.  These letters refer to style, maturity and strike.  The online calculator performs intelligent parsing and so when you enter the maturity month, strike price and type (put or call) it will automatically parse the correct option data for you.

Interpreting Contractual Features

Enter the symbol for the underlying asset (click on enter symbol here).  The default case is to list near term at-the-money options.  

These are the shorter maturity options with strike prices around the current stock price.

For example, on September 18th IBM closed at 123 1/4 and the near options trading had expiration months of October and November.  The following table was displayed for the default case:

The first two digits refer to the year of expiration (00 is 2000), the month refers to the month of expiration (Oct = October), the next number refers to the strike or exercise price.  Finally, in brackets is the Option's symbol but you only need enter the first part which refers to the underlying (in this case IBM).   

To read the full list of strike prices/maturity of options trading change the default case to List all Options and LEAPS when you click on the hyperlink


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