Facebook IPO: Can it survive a downbeat market?

Facebook IPO likely to do well on its first day of trading. But Facebook IPO would do much better in a stronger stock market.

Mark Lennihan/AP
Electronic screens inside the Nasdaq stock market announce the listing of Facebook shares before the start of trading, Friday, May 18, 2012, in New York. The world's definitive online social network raised $16 billion in an initial public offering that values the company at $104 billion, but a declining stock market may limit its gains.

For Facebook to live up to its larger-than-life public image, it will have to withstand a broader stock market where the overwhelming pressure is heading downward.

The Facebook bet then — at least for investors willing to take a stab at the company whose initial public offeringgoes online Friday — is that the shares can rise even if the market falls, and perhaps even create its own momentum that lifts all of Wall Street.

Overnight trading indicated that stocks could open positive tomorrow, but futures are volatile and could change on any murmur out of Europe.

 "The trading on Facebook is going to be isolated. It's going to be exclusive between the people who use Facebook and feel it's going to be the second coming, and the people who've been waiting to get some liquidity out of it so they can sell it," says Keith Springer, president of Springer Financial Advisory in Sacramento, Calif. "It's basically an ecosystem unto itself."

 An ability to bifurcate itself from the broader market pressures would be crucial at a time when stocks face an array of headwinds coming both from Greece and at home.

 The 10-year Treasury yield — a benchmark both for borrowing rates and economic growth — is trading near record lows.

 Overseas, Greece is edging ever-closer to a messy divorce from the European Union, while 16 Spanish banks were downgraded late Thursday, raising worries that the debt problem is ready to go from a nuisance to a full-blown global crisis.

"The real question is, should Facebook even be going public with everything that's happening right now?" said Todd Schoenberger, managing director at BlackBay Group. "They're going to do well (Friday). It's going to pop, but if things were better, Facebook would do two or three times that much or better."

While Schoenberger thinks Facebook can turn in a positive performance without an accompanying gain in the major indexes, he doesn't expect the stock to be much help to the broader selling trend.

"You're not going to have a halo effect like you would with an Apple," he said. "You're not going to see Exxon trade higher just because of Facebook."

The Facebook IPO price at the open will briefly be $38, which is at the high end of the expected range the company indicated to the Securities Exchange Commission.

The price from there will be subject to a variety of factors, not least that market correlation, or the tendency of stocks and other asset classes to move in the same direction, has returned after plunging in the first quarter.

"If any stock can buck the overall downtrend, it could be Facebook," said Ryan Detrick, senior analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati. "But that's a dangerous game to be in because everything has been so correlated."

Still, it will be hard for a market, even one that's under as much pressure as this, to resist the momentum that a $100 billion company will provide on its first day.

"My gut would be we get some little bounce and then selling comes in, because now people have had their heads handed to them and they're realizing little old Greece could trigger a lot of stuff," said Kathy Boyle, president of Chapin Hill Advisors in New York. "If QE3 (the third leg of the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing) isn't happening, there's no saving this market."

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.