This is a breaking news story and will be frequently updated.
UPDATE 12:38 pm EST: When Alibaba kicked off trading this morning, its market cap was around $228.5 billion -- more valuable than Facebook and Amazon. But it still trails Google. Here's a roundup of some other huge tech market caps, per the New York Times' Will Alden:
LinkedIn: $25.6 billion
Twitter: $30.8 billion
eBay: $65.5 billion
Amazon: $151.7 billion
Facebook: $200 billion
Google: $400.3 billion
UPDATE 12:34 pm EST: Alibaba shares fell below their initial price of $92.70, landing below $91. That still represents a 32 percent increase from its $68 IPO price.
UPDATE 12:15 pm EST: After peaking at $99.70, Alibaba has reversed and is now trading at $92.14, just below its opening price of $92.70.
"In my over 20 years at the NYSE, I haven't seen anything like it."
That was the reaction of an experienced trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Friday morning as Alibaba Group Holding Limited (NYSE:BABA) kicked off the U.S. markets at $92.70, a price 36 percent higher than its initial public offering price of $68 a share. It quickly jumped to $99.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the building to catch a glimpse and snap photos of the e-commerce giant's founder and CEO Jack Ma, who arrived with a small retinue of executives.
None of the company's executives, including Ma, rang the opening bell at the NYSE's landmark building on Wall Street. Alibaba opted to instead have eight customers stand at the podium. Although the company rang the opening bell at 9:30 a.m. EST, shares did not begin trading. The stock was in the range of $92-$93 at 11:30 a.m. and kicked off at $92.70. The stock will trade under the ticker symbol "BABA."
But it looks likely to be one of Wall Street's busiest days for an IPO. Broker TD Ameritrade said that customer orders for Alibaba exceeded orders for Twitter's IPO by 2.5 times.
Alibaba priced shares at $68 a piece on Thursday, at the high end of its $66-$68 range, raising $21.8 billion for the company and investors. But all morning long, the price range kept increasing to $82-$85, then to $88-$90. At that range, Alibaba would raise $28.9 billion and be worth just below $222 billion. By 11:27 am EST, it had been raised yet again to $92-$93.
And in the era of high-frequency trading and computer alogirthms determining investing strategies, it reminded some of how the human touch can still play an important role on Wall Street.
"What makes the NYSE is the human factor. Everything is based on transparency," Mark Otto, partner at J. Streicher and Co., said to IBTimes at the New York Stock Exchange. "It's orchestrating everything in coordination with the underwriter. As they sound off audibles and visual indications to the crowd, they'll express demand and put the orders in. If they need to recalculate, they'll do so."
Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), which is expected to retain a nearly 16 percent stake in Alibaba following the initial public offering, is estimated to make anywhere from $8.3 billion to $9.5 billion from the initial public offering, according to CNBC.
Shares of Yahoo edged up .17 percent to $42.15 in morning trading ahead of Alibaba trading.