What Does the Fifth Letter of a Stock Symbol Mean?

A fifth letter after stock symbols indicates it's not a normal issue.

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Many investors, particularly those new to the investing market, wonder what the fifth letter of stock symbols -- also often called ticker symbols -- means on the Nasdaq stock exchange. A ticker symbol with a fifth letter identifies that there are additional circumstances with the stock, beyond a normal stock issue. For example, the letter "K" at the end of a stock symbol means this is non-voting stock.

Nasdaq Stock Exchange

The Nasdaq stock exchange assigns four-letter ticker symbols to all registered stocks. For example, the Nasdaq stock symbol for the iconic Microsoft Corp. is MSFT. Some stock symbols also have a fifth letter, which gives investors some pertinent information about the stock. For instance, should the fifth letter be a "D," this tells investors that this is a new stock issue.

Treat an "E" with Care

Investors pay particular attention to an "E" as a fifth letter. When investors see a four-letter ticker symbol followed by an "E," it means the issuer is delinquent with one or more required SEC filings. When investors see this letter, which could signify simply missing a reporting deadline or a more serious problem, investors must investigate the company further to learn more about the reasons for this code.

The Letter "V"

Technically, stock symbols with the letter "V" in the fifth position mean "when issued or when distributed." However, the real-world translation is that these shares are ready for a stock split or a similar corporate action plan that has already been announced. Stocks with a fifth position "V" often attract high investor interest as they search for a winner.

The Letter "C"

Similar to the letter "E," a ticker symbol with a "C" in the fifth position stands for Issuer Qualification Exception, which indicates a potential problem: The issuing company does not meet all Nasdaq stock exchange listing requirements. However, the stock can remain listed on the exchange and will be exempt from listing requirements for a short period. Ticker symbols with the letter "C" also require more investigation to determine reasons for the failure of meeting Nasdaq listing requirements.

Foreign Stock Issues

Fifth-position identifiers give investors valuable information. For example, a four-letter ticker symbol, while a unique label for a stock, tells investors little beyond identifying the issuing company name. However, when investors see an "F" in the fifth position, they immediately know this is a foreign issue.

New York Stock Exchange

Unlike the four-letter codes issued by the Nasdaq exchange, the New York Stock Exchange uses unique one-to-three letter stock symbols. Instead of the fifth-letter special codes Nasdaq uses, the NYSE attaches a fourth-letter code to identify a particular stock as something beyond a regular common stock issue. Since the NYSE apparently favors complexity, it chooses not to use the same letter codes as the Nasdaq exchange. Investors should become familiar with the fifth, or fourth, position letter codes of each exchange.