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A while ago exchange-traded option symbols migrated to a 21-character descriptor, formalized by the Options Clearing Corporation (OCC), consisting of:

  • 7 characters: root or underlying symbol
  • 6 characters: expiration date formatted YYMMDD
  • 1 character : option type, C (call) or P (put)
  • 8 characters: strike price, 5 for integer and 3 for fraction

Total length is 21 characters. For example, AAPL 210116C00130000 stands for AAPL Call Option at $130.00 Expiring on 16-Jan-2021.

The symbol part must be padded with spaces if the underlying is shorter than 7 characters, and that must have created parsing and processing problems for tooling, API etc. One can arguably discard the spaces and decode the option symbol in reverse order interpreting any characters leading to date as the symbol, but AAPL210116C00130000 would not be compliant with the proposed schema.

I could not locate up-to-date documents on the OCC site regarding option naming. What descriptors are currently used in the industry in data feeds, the back-end, and integrations?

References to option symbol changes at various US brokers:

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