The Most Surprising Thing About Facebook’s IPO? Trading Has Been Completely Rational!

Today’s Facebook (FB) IPO is the first time I can remember being completely shocked at the lack of trading excitement and volatility for a much-hyped IPO. Ironically, the reason for such unexciting, rational behavior is because of how hyped the Facebook IPO was to begin with. The share allocation to retail investors at the $38 offer price was huge. I put in orders for my larger clients at E*Trade, one of the brokerage firms that got a sizable piece of the IPO, but did not really think they would allocate us any shares (there were reports that Fidelity would not even consider giving out shares to any clients who had less than $500,000 with them). What happened? We got every share we asked for.

With that much hype, especially from the retail side, and with that many investors actually getting 100 or 200 shares, it would be completely rational that, since the supply was very large and the price was fair, a large first day surge would be unwarranted. But we are not used to seeing first day rationality for hot Internet IPOs. In hindsight, it makes sense that Facebook opened at $42.05, only up $4. With so few incremental buyers (given the huge retail allocation at the IPO price), it also makes sense that the stock would see selling at the open, which did occur, sending the stock down to $38 exactly within the first 30 minutes of trading.

So while I am pretty shocked that this IPO has been so calm, I think it bodes well for how the financial market worked. For what could very well be the most hyped IPO ever, investors are acting completely rational and the investment bankers have done a really solid job of not only correctly pricing the deal, but also letting the “Average Joe” participate. The retail brokerage customer won’t be getting rich off of this IPO on day one, but that is not the way it should work anyway. With so many people getting stock, the immediate paper gains should be modest. That is how the marketplace should work. It is all about supply and demand after all.

Full Disclosure: I received Facebook shares at the IPO price, as did a few of my clients. I was planning to look for a chance to flip them today, after a nice pop, but with this interesting trading action to start the day, we have yet to sell a single share as of the time of this post. As always, positions may change at any time.

UPDATE (5/18): I sold my client’s Facebook shares after this post was originally published, in afternoon trading at $40.09 each.