More Facebook coverage

MENLO PARK -- Facebook stock shot to record highs Thursday, a day after the social network showed off continued booming revenue and profit growth in 2013, and used the spotlight to show off its newest spinoff mobile application.

Shares jumped as high as $62.50 Thursday on Wall Street, cracking the $60 level and pushing Facebook's market cap higher than $150 billion for the first time. Facebook sold its initial batch of shares for $38 in May 2012, but the price slipped in its second day of public trading and stayed lower for more than a year amid pessimism about the Menlo Park company's ability to monetize its mobile popularity and maintain high growth rates.

With Wednesday's earnings report, though, such doubts seem to be well behind the world's most popular social network.

Facebook's revenue and profit growth increased for the third consecutive quarter, according to Wednesday's report, thanks to big improvements in mobile use and sales. Fourth-quarter profit soared more than 700 percent to $523 million from the holiday quarter a year before, while revenue rose 63 percent to $2.58 billion; for the full year, profit increased more than 270 percent to $1.5 billion while revenues grew 54.6 percent to $7.87 billion. Revenue and profit growth increased each of the past three quarters.


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"So it turns out that a massive and engaged user base with relevant ads can generate a lot of revenue growth," Macquarie Securities analyst Ben Schachter wrote Tuesday in a note titled "Usage + Relevant Ads = Wow!" Schachter reiterated an "outperform" rating and increased his price target from $62 to $73.

Facebook Paper app
Courtesy photo of the Facebook Paper App (Courtesy of Facebook)

Beyond financial growth, Facebook's most prominent gains came in the mobile field, with founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying Wednesday, "2013 was the year we turned our business into a mobile business." Mobile advertising revenue cracked $1 billion on their own and accounted for more than half -- 53 percent -- of Facebook's overall ad revenue, while well more than half of Facebook's 757 million daily visitors used the service on mobile devices, as advertisers targeted the social network during the holiday season to lure shoppers.

Facebook's gains were "driven by mobile monetization," Robert W. Baird analyst Colin Sebastian concluded in a Tuesday note.

"More advertisers are allocating or increasing budgets to Facebook, we believe largely due to improvements in ad quality and performance," Sebastian wrote; he maintained an "outperform" rating on Facebook and increased his price target from $54 to $65.

With the company's mobile performance striking so many high notes, Facebook announced a new offering Thursday morning, a mobile application called Paper that offers a similar service to Flipboard, a news-reading app that allows users to aggregate content from across the Web. While separate from the standard Facebook app, it includes a user's Facebook News Feed in a different format as well as dozens of possible themes and topics.

"Paper makes storytelling more beautiful with an immersive design and full-screen, distraction-free layouts," the company's blog post read.

The new app shows Facebook's expansive mobile ambitions, with Paper joining Instagram -- the popular San Francisco photo-sharing app Facebook purchased in 2012 -- and mobile messaging app Facebook Messenger as Facebook apps offered separately from its social-networking application.

Facebook could be planning more such spinoff apps, as Paper was celebrated as the first offering developed by Facebook Creative Labs, which the blog post said is crafting new apps to support the diverse ways people want to connect and share. Paper will debut for the iPhone in the U.S. on Feb. 3.

Facebook closed with a 14.1 percent gain at $61.08, and other social-networking stocks surfed higher on the company's wake: Twitter gained 6.8 percent to $63.47, LinkedIn moved 4.1 percent higher to $212.40, and Yelp increased 4.9 percent to $75.47.

Staff writer Brandon Bailey contributed to this report. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/jowens510.