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Facebook stock plunge halts - despite insiders being freed to sell

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Facebook stock jumped 12.59 per cent yesterday despite early investors getting the go-ahead to offload millions of shares if they so wished.

A lock-out period that prevented staff and others from trading their shares ended on the biggest block of Facebook shares yesterday. The time limit was put in place to give the social network a head start after its stock market debut earlier this year.

The trading restrictions were lifted on about 800 million shares, nearly doubling the 921-million share float that's been on the market up until now.

Facebook stock has performed disappointingly since its initial public offering in May. After feverish anticipation, technical problems on the day and the realisation that underwriter Morgan Stanley wasn't so sure about the firm's future, the share price fell by at least 30 per cent in the first few weeks from its start price of $38.

The first lock-out period finished in August, putting 270 million shares on the market, and pushed Facebook's share price to an all-time low, close to half the IPO price. One of the network's earliest investors Peter Thiel dumped most of his majority stake the same month, offloading $400m worth of shares.

Anyone expecting the same result yesterday was disappointed: shares rose instead of falling, though the lift still only took the price to $22.36. That somewhat steady price suggests calmer investors are hanging on to the stock to see if Facebook can translate its success on the web into mobile ad revenue, which is what it needs to survive as more and more of its users access the site on their phones and tablets. ®

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