I am new to Python and recently started exploring web crawling. The code below parses the S&P 500 List Wikipedia page and writes the data of a specific table into a database.

While this script is hardcoded and I would certainly be interested in some thoughts on performing the same task in a slightly more generic way (perhaps with beautifulsoup), this is not my primary concern. What I really wondered was if there is a less verbose or more "pythonic" way of doing it.

import urllib.request
import re
import pymysql

# Open Website and get only the table on the page with the relevant data. In this hardcoded case 
table = urllib.request.urlopen("https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_S%26P_500_companies#S.26P_500_Component_Stocks").read().decode("utf-8")
table = table.split("<table")[1]
table = table.split("\n")

# Define regex used for parsing and initialise list containers
tick_ident_nasdaq = 'href=\"http:\/\/www\.nasdaq\.com\/symbol\/'
tick_ident_nyse = 'href=\"https:\/\/www.nyse.com\/quote\/'
name_grab = '\">(.+)<\/a></td>'
cigs_grab = '^<td>(.+)</td>'

ticker, exchange, names, cigs, cigs_sub = ( [] for i in range(5))
match = False           

# Parse HTML output and write relevant td data to lists. 
# The list is "hardcoded", meaning after each match of either NASDAQ or NYSE ident, 
# the matching <td> as well as the next, the fourth and fifth <td> after that one get parsed.  

for i in range(len(table)):
    if bool(re.search(pattern = tick_ident_nasdaq, string = table[i])):
        ticker.append(re.search(pattern = name_grab, string = table[i]).group(1))
        match = True

    elif bool(re.search(pattern = tick_ident_nyse, string = table[i])):
        ticker.append(re.search(pattern = name_grab, string = table[i]).group(1))
        match = True

    if match == True:
        names.append(re.search(pattern = name_grab, string = table[i + 1]).group(1))
        names[-1] = re.sub(pattern = "&amp;", repl = "&", string = names[-1])
        cigs.append(re.search(pattern = cigs_grab, string = table[i + 3]).group(1))
        cigs[-1] = re.sub(pattern = "&amp;", repl = "&", string = cigs[-1])
        cigs_sub.append(re.search(pattern = cigs_grab, string = table[i + 4]).group(1))
        cigs_sub[-1] = re.sub(pattern = "&amp;", repl = "&", string = cigs_sub[-1])
        match = False

# Format Data in tuple format for database export
company_data = zip(ticker, exchange, names, cigs, cigs_sub)

# Establish database connection, empty companies table and rewrite list data to table    
    conn = pymysql.connect(host = "localhost", user = "root", passwd = "pw", db = "db", charset = "utf8", autocommit = True, cursorclass=pymysql.cursors.DictCursor)
    cur = conn.cursor()
    cur.execute("DELETE FROM companies")
    cur.executemany("INSERT INTO companies (tickersymbol, exchange, name, cigs, cigs_sub) VALUES (\"%s\", \"%s\", \"%s\", \"%s\", \"%s\")", (company_data))   

2 Answers 2


The right tool

As you've said, you are not using the right tool for this task : you can't parse HTML with regexps.

A better approach would be to use an already existing parser like BeautifulSoup.

A simpler container

At the moment, you are putting data in multiple lists to zip them all at the very end. It can be a very nice technique but in our case, you put in different containers things that actually belong together. Also, you have a risk of adding too many elements in a list and having information zipped with information that should be in a different row. An easier option is to have a single list where each elements contain everything you've parsed.

Also, you can take this chance to rewrite in a more straightforward way the parts where you add something a list and then refer to it with my_list[-1].

company_data = []

for i in range(len(table)):
    if bool(re.search(pattern = tick_ident_nasdaq, string = table[i])):
        exchange = "NASDAQ"
    elif bool(re.search(pattern = tick_ident_nyse, string = table[i])):
        exchange = "NYSE"
        exchange = None
    if exchange:
        ticker = re.search(pattern = name_grab, string = table[i]).group(1)
        name = re.search(pattern = name_grab, string = table[i + 1]).group(1)
        name = re.sub(pattern = "&amp;", repl = "&", string = name)
        cig = re.search(pattern = cigs_grab, string = table[i + 3]).group(1)
        cig = re.sub(pattern = "&amp;", repl = "&", string = cig)
        cig_sub = re.search(pattern = cigs_grab, string = table[i + 4]).group(1)
        cig_sub = re.sub(pattern = "&amp;", repl = "&", string = cig_sub)
        company_data.append((ticker, exchange, name, cig, cig_sub))

Compile your regexp

You can compile regexp if you plan to reuse them many times. It is more efficient and it makes it possible to use them like any Python object.

# Define regex used for parsing
tick_ident_nasdaq = re.compile('href=\"http:\/\/www\.nasdaq\.com\/symbol\/')
tick_ident_nyse = re.compile('href=\"https:\/\/www.nyse.com\/quote\/')
name_grab = re.compile('\">(.+)<\/a></td>')
cigs_grab = re.compile('^<td>(.+)</td>')
amp_re = re.compile("&amp;")

company_data = []

for i in range(len(table)):
    if bool(tick_ident_nasdaq.search(string = table[i])):
        exchange = "NASDAQ"
    elif bool(tick_ident_nyse.search(string = table[i])):
        exchange = "NYSE"
        exchange = None
    if exchange:
        ticker = name_grab.search(string = table[i]).group(1)
        name = name_grab.search(string = table[i + 1]).group(1)
        name = amp_re.sub(repl = "&", string = name)
        cig = cigs_grab.search(string = table[i + 3]).group(1)
        cig = amp_re.sub(repl = "&", string = cig)
        cig_sub = cigs_grab.search(string = table[i + 4]).group(1)
        cig_sub = amp_re.sub(repl = "&", string = cig_sub)
        company_data.append((ticker, exchange, name, cig, cig_sub))

"&" and "&"

What you are trying to do when substituing "&" with "&":

  • deserves to but put in a function on its own

  • actually corresponds to a common problem already solved : HTML entity decoding.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice read about Regex parsing on the link, looks like I still have a lot of basics to learn. Thanks for the improvements, I'll mark it as answered. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 27, 2017 at 0:04

A more generic approach here could be to use pandas.read_html() function that can parse this table into a DataFrame which would be very convenient to deal with later - filter, slice, write to a database (see to_sql()).

Here is a sample code to get the desired S&P 500 dataframe:

import pandas as pd
import requests

url = "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_S%26P_500_companies"
response = requests.get(url)

df = pd.read_html(response.content)[0]

And, FYI, read_html() is using BeautifulSoup for HTML parsing under-the-hood.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow, I'm currently doing some Pandas courses on the side, but I did not know about the HTML parsing features. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Feb 27, 2017 at 0:02

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