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Fitbit shares soar in opening day trading

Healthy demand for Fitbit's initial public offering is a sign that consumers will keep buying fitness bands even when they have the option to choose more feature-packed wearables like the Apple Watch.

Fitbit, the first wearable tech company to go public, saw its shares soar during its first day of trading as a public company, a sign that fitness-and-health tracking gadgets are more than just a passing fad.

The shares, trading under the symbol "FIT," closed Thursday at $29.68 on the New York Stock Exchange, giving Fitbit a market value of nearly $6.1 billion. Shares rose 48 percent from the $20 a share price that Fitbit set yesterday. The shares opened at $30.40 and touched a high of $31.90 in intraday trading.

San Francisco-based Fitbit makes a range of simple, colorful devices that count steps, measure sleep activity and monitor workouts. Sarah Tew

Fitbit was the first wearable company to make the move to Wall Street. It's also among the few in the burgeoning wearables market, which now includes the Apple Watch, to turn a profit. Gross profit was $357.7 million last year on sales of $745.4 million for 2014, Fitbit said in a May filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Fitbit is riding high on enthusiasm for the wearables category in general. An estimated 72.1 million wearable devices, including smartwatches, fitness bands and smart eyewear, are forecast to ship in 2015, market researcher IDC said Thursday. If so, that number would be a bounce of 173 percent from the 26.4 million wearables that shipped last year.

Founded in October 2007 by James Park and Eric Friedman, San Francisco-based Fitbit makes a range of simple, colorful devices meant to be clipped or strapped to the body for counting steps, measuring sleep activity and monitoring workouts. Fitbit also makes companion software for smartphones and a Web application that displays stats, offers insights and training tips and lets users input what they ate throughout the day to track caloric intake and other daily health metrics.

The 579-employee company says it plans to use the cash raised through the IPO to fund its ongoing research and development, and has said it may also use a portion to acquire another company.