NEW YORK — Shares of Twitter went on sale to the public for the first time Thursday, instantly leaping more than 70 percent above their offering price in a dazzling debut that exceeded even Wall Street's lofty hopes for the most anticipated initial public offering since Facebook last year.
At the opening bell, the social network that reinvented global communication in 140-character bursts was valued at $31 billion — more than Macy's and roughly comparable to the parent company of KFC and Pizza Hut or tractor and tool maker Deere & Co.
Twitter, which has never turned a profit in the seven years since it was founded, worked hard to temper expectations ahead of the IPO, but all that was swiftly forgotten with the stock's opening surge.
The company "now just has to deliver on all this," said Roger Entner of Recon Analytics.
The IPO was carefully orchestrated to avoid the glitches and eventual letdown that surrounded Facebook's first appearance on the Nasdaq 18 months ago.
Trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "TWTR," shares opened at $45.10, 73 percent above their initial offering price.
In the first few hours, the stock jumped as high as $50.09. At midday, it was up 73.6 percent, at $45.14, amid a broader market decline.
The narrow price range indicated that people felt it was "pretty fairly priced," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.
The immediate price spike "clearly shows that demand exceeds the supply of shares," said Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter.
Earlier in the day, Twitter gave a few users rather than executives the opportunity to ring the NYSE's opening bell. The users included actor Patrick Stewart, who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard in "Star Trek: The Next Generation"; Vivienne Harr, a 9-year-old girl who ran a lemonade stand for a year to raise money to end child slavery; and Cheryl Fiandaca of the Boston Police Department.