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A sign displays the Twitter logo on the front of the New York Stock Exchange in New York on Nov. 7, 2013.

Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Twitter shares surged at the open on the NYSE Thursday as investors rushed to get a piece of the company on its first day of trading.

The company's shares – which opened the day at $26 – opened 73 per cent higher in early trading to $45.10. That gives the company a market cap near $26-billion.

By noon, the shares had risen to $46.12.

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Twitter executives eschewed tradition and watched the opening bell ring from the floor of the New York Stock exchange rather than doing it themselves. They had actor Patrick Stewart – who has about 750,000 Twitter followers – ring the bell on their behalf.

Twitter priced its shares at $26 (U.S.) late yesterday, $1 more than the expected range. The company announced the share price in a tweet Wednesday night. The shares begin trading Thursday morning on the New York Stock Exchange, in one of the most anticipated stock debuts since Facebook's choppy offering in May, 2012.

The deal is believed to have raised more than $1.8-billion, making it the third biggest U.S. IPO of the year, behind Plains GP Holdings' $2.9-billion offering and Zoetis's $2.6-billion deal, according to Dealogic.

Opening trading can be volatile, for any company. Facebook shares initially jumped to $45 from $38 on its debut, but ended up closing the day only 23 cents higher from where it began.

"Long term investors, especially retail, should wait for the dust to settle before initiating a position," said Santosh Rao, an analyst at GreenCrest Capital Management in New York, who expects the shares to be trading closer to $30 "once all the dust settles."

The company and its promise of growth is a welcomed bright spot in a public market that has seen more than its share of profit warnings and earnings misses in recent weeks as the United States economy continues to struggle. The company has yet to turn a profit, but investors have been willing to look past that in exchange for growth as social media companies build their businesses.

The service allows its more than 200-million users to send out 140-character messages from their computers and mobile devices. It has taken on a central role in news and information sharing that has pushed its influence beyond its user base – celebrities use it to bypass the paparazzi by sharing their own candid photos, Prime Minister Stephen Harper used it to scoop the national media on his cabinet shuffle, protesters rely on its short messages and real-time urgency to organize themselves against totalitarian regimes.

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Now Twitter must find a way to make money amid the messages. It hopes to do this by selling ads within the service and selling data licences with detailed historical and real-time analytics about what its users are doing while logged on.

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