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Spanish bank to lose unfortunate ticker symbol

June 12, 2012: 3:32 PM ET

Shares of two big Spanish banks have been pummeled for the past year on worries about the growing European debt crisis.

It's hard enough being a Spanish bank these days. The U.S.-listed shares of Banco Santander are down more than 20% this year amid concerns about the health of the Spanish financial system and Spain's (as well as Europe's) overall economy.

But there's some good news for Santander. It is about to get a new ticker symbol on the NYSE that is less likely to be mocked. Santander wasn't doing itself any favors with the ticker symbol of STD. I've simply referred to this on Twitter as an "unfortunate" ticker symbol. (Get your mind out of the gutter and stop making jokes about the European debt "contagion.")

That will all change on Thursday June 14. Santander (STD) will begin trading instead as SAN. The bank announced the shift back in April. The move was made possible after Santander's Chilean unit Banco Santander Chile (BSAC) said it was giving up the SAN symbol in favor of BSAC.

In its release two months ago, Santander said that the change to SAN "aligns the use of ticker symbols within the Santander Group." Santander already trades as SAN in Madrid. A spokesman for the bank in Madrid added on Tuesday that the ticker symbol change was done to avoid causing confusion from having the Chilean unit trade on the NYSE with the same symbol as Banco Santander in Spain.

Still, this won't end all the confusion. Santander has been listed as STD in the U.S. for awhile. One could argue that it's more confusing to get rid of a somewhat entrenched symbol. What's more, Santander's stock on the London Stock Exchange trades under the symbol "BNC." So it's not as if the U.S. shares were the only ones that are trading sans SAN.

Whatever the reason for the ticker symbol change, investors still probably need to remain wary of any of the Spanish banks. The rescue euphoria following Saturday's request for funding from the EU was short-lived. Investors are still very nervous. And in case you forgot, big U.S. banks didn't hit bottom until months after the TARP bailout was announced in 2008.

That's why I'm surprised by the move up in Santander and rival BBVA (BBVA) Tuesday. In fact, I dubbed it my Stupid Stock Move of the Day!

It's curious that both stocks have bounced off the bottom considering that Spanish bond yields surged perilously close to what I've dubbed the Pau Gasol status of 7%. (The Spanish-born Los Angeles Laker -- although not for much longer? -- is 7-feet tall.) The market is clearly sending the message that Spain itself needs even more help ... and that 100 billion euros for Spanish banks may not be enough either.

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