Monday, February 11, 2013

Preferred Ticker Reference Table

One of the most common questions that I have received from readers is that they are not able to find preferred stocks that I have referenced on their own trading platforms. This generally happens for one of two reasons:
  1.  I write about a lot of new issue preferred securities. At the time of writing some of them are still trading Over The Counter and not on the exchange that they ultimately will. When trading OTC the preferred security will use one ticker but it will change to another when it starts trading on an actual exchange. 
  2. The more common reason why preferred securities cannot be found is because there is no standard naming convention for preferred security tickers - every platform is a little bit different.

To minimize the confusion around ticker symbols that are going to change, I try to point it out every time that it occurs. Zions Bancorporation recently issued its 6.30% Series G preferred security. It is trading on the OTC market with the ticker ZIONL but once it begins trading on the NYSE it will trade under the ticker ZB-G.

There is no easy way to avoid confusion around the second point, though - platforms generally don't tell you how to look up preferred securities. It's tough enough to remember that the JPMorgan Chase & Co 5.50% Series O ticker is JPM-D, let alone that in order to look it up on CNBC for real-time pricing you have to enter JPM'D and to trade it out of your E*Trade account the ticker is JPM.PR.D

In an attempt to make preferred stock trading a little bit more straight forward for everyone (step 1 is just being able to find the security on your trading platform, right?), I have put together the following table showing how to look up preferred stocks on many of the brokerage platforms.

There are a handful of preferred securities that do not have a letter following their ticker symbol. I have shown this using Wells Fargo's Wachovia Preferred Funding Corp, 7.25% Series A preferred stock. It should be noted that on the E*Trade platform, these preferred security tickers do not include the second period (meaning WNA- is NOT WNA.PR. but actually WNA.PR).

Finally there are preferred stocks that do not have any preferred designator, an example of which is American Capital Agency Corp  8.00% Series A. The preferred ticker is AGNCP no matter what platform you are on (there is no preferred designator following the ticker like there is with WNA-).

Investing in preferred stocks involves its own unique risks and challenges that are different than those of common stocks - one of them shouldn't be figuring out how to look it up!

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