Contract Trading Codes: A Simple Guide

To identify a futures product, contract display codes are used. Contract display codes are typically one- to three-letter codes, followed by additional characters indicating month and year of expiration. The format of a contract code varies according to asset class and trading platform, and it is fundamental in understanding pricing across multiple expirations.

Many contract codes originated on the trading floor to convey maximum information through minimum characters, before they migrated into the electronic environment.

Deciphering the codes

The CME Globex contract code for the Emini S&P 500 futures contract is ‘ES’, which is also the product’s specific code used on CME Clearport. However, it is very important to be aware the contract codes can vary across venues, for example the Eurodollar futures contract code differs between CME Globex where it’s ‘GE’ and Clearport, where it’s ‘ED’.

For contract expiration, additional characters to the right of the contract code indicate month and year. Each month expiration is identified by one letter:

Jan = F Feb = G Mar = H Apr = J May = K Jun = M Jul = N Aug = Q Sep = U Oct = V Nov = X Dec = Z

Available contract expiration months may vary by product, but the letter following the contract code always indicates the expiration month. Expiration year is indicated following the month as a numeric value, eg 2018 (8), 2019 (9). Therefore, March 2019 would read ‘H9’.

So the code for the Emini S&P 500 futures contract expiring March 2019, would be ‘ESH9’.

These general rules apply to the format of futures contract codes, but be aware that coded and available expiration dates can vary across platforms.

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