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The tale of the tape is ugly for Facebook Add to ...

The tale of the trading tape for Facebook’s first day on the market shows just how weak the debut was.

Exhibit A, of course, is the price. The stock debuted at $38, and after an initial pop, finished the regular trading day at just $38.23.

Digging deeper, most stock traded at the bid price rather than the ask price. Of the almost 568 million shares that changed hands, 303 million traded at the bid. Even when the stock was trading in the $42 range, well above the IPO price, suggesting optimism, the vast majority of volume was at the bid.

If all the home sellers in your neighbourhood weren’t willing to wait to get their asking price, and instead were hitting the first bid that was close enough, what would that tell you? Buyer’s market.

On its own, for a single stock, some traders will say this isn’t a reliable indicator. What’s more, the rest of the market too was weak in the afternoon. But there were other trouble spots.

Almost all the big volume was in the first half hour of trading, when close to 40 per cent of the daily volume was racked up. After that, when the buzz died, volumes slowed seriously.

And the biggest tell is that the stock dipped all the way from a high of $45 to its IPO price of $38, but never broke that low. However, almost 15 per cent of the daily volume was at that price. That’s a signal that the banks that underwrite the IPO, led by Morgan Stanley, were buying furiously to stop the stock from dropping below that price. If they hadn’t been there, look out below.

There’s one other interesting number: 409. That’s the number of shares the one person who paid the day’s high of $45 bought. So far, that’s your greater fool.

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