Deciphering the symbology introduced with Futures trading…
Futures, unlike stocks, are specific contracts between 2 parties for the purchase or sale of a standardised quantity of an underlying with specific trading parameters.
One of the most important parameters is the expiration/delivery date of the contract. This is the time of actual physical transaction between buyer and seller where the buyer delivers the agreed quantity to the seller in exchange for the price agreed at the time of taking up the contract (note some futures contracts exchange can be settled in Cash instead of the underlying exchange).
This date, along with the actual underlying code will drive the naming convention for the futures contract. For example, The code for Silver is “SI” and the code for a December contract of this year is “Z9″ or “Z09″. The first part is a letter code for the month. The list of month codes is:
The second part is the year in 1 or 2 digits form. The Silver December 09 contract’s symbole is therefore SIZ09. According to its other characteristics its size is for 5,000 troy ounces, the tick size is one-half cent (0.5¢ or $0.005) per troy ounce, equivalent to $25.00 per contract, and it trades on the NYMEX.
You can find the list of most Futures symbols on the CSI Futures Factsheet.