NEW YORK - Federated Department Stores Inc. shares will trade under the one-letter ticker symbol "M" if shareholders approve changing the company's name to Macy's Inc., Federated said yesterday.

In changing its symbol from "FD" - which the retailer has traded under since 1992 - Federated will join an elite group of 15 companies already represented by a single letter on the New York Stock Exchange.

The change is to be voted on by shareholders at Federated's annual meeting May 18, and the stock symbol change would be effective June 1. The company opted to shorten its proposed new name from the previously announced Macy's Group Inc.

The moves are part of Federated's strategy to focus on building Macy's as a national brand.

"Macy's represents about 90 percent of the revenue of our corporation, and this is another important opportunity to reinforce the recent expansion of the Macy's brand," Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Federated, with corporate offices in Cincinnati and New York, operates more than 850 department stores in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico under the Macy's and Bloomingdale's nameplates.

On Wall Street, a company's stock symbol inevitably becomes part of its identity, so a mnemonic that is short and easy to remember is highly coveted.

The NYSE lists specific guidelines that companies must meet to list on the exchange, but no official criteria about requesting or switching ticker symbols. Most NYSE companies have three-letter ticker symbols, although there are some with two letters - such as Coca-Cola Co.'s KO.

The Nasdaq Stock Market knows the cachet of a snappy symbol: Earlier this month, the electronic exchange long known for its four-letter ticker symbols said it would start allowing companies to have symbols with one, two or three letters - which could ease the transition if a company already established on the NYSE wanted to list on the Nasdaq.

Some companies are creative with their multi-letter symbols - such as brewers Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. and Molson Coors Brewing Co. Anheuser-Busch uses "BUD," and Molson Coors uses "TAP." And Southwest Airlines' symbol "LUV" is an homage to the carrier's Dallas hub, Love Field.

But the single letter has a special appeal; when Sprint and Nextel combined in 2005, the new Sprint Nextel Corp. abandoned the old symbols, "FON" and "NXTL," and applied for and received the snappier "S."

The Sweet Sixteen

Only 15 NYSE companies now trade with an elite one-letter ticker symbol, and Macy's would become the 16th.

A: Agilent Technologies Inc., scientific instruments.

B: Barnes Group Inc., metals and industrial supplies.

C: Citigroup Inc., banking.

D: Dominion Resources Inc., electricity and gas.

E: ENI S.p.A., energy.

F: Ford Motor Co., automobiles.

H: Realogy Corp., residential real estate.

K: Kellogg Co., cereals.

M: Macy's Inc., retailing, pending shareholder approval.

O: Realty Income Corp., real estate.

Q: Qwest Communications International Inc., telephone service.

R: Ryder System Inc., commercial vehicles.

S: Sprint Nextel Corp., wireless telephone service.

T: AT&T Inc., telephone and Internet service.

X: United States Steel Corp., steel.

Y: Alleghany Corp., insurance and real estate.

Not taken: G, I, J, L, N, P, U, V, W and Z.

SOURCE: Associated Press