StockMarketWire.com - The FTSE 250 index hit record highs on Friday despite a thin day for corporate news and slim volumes as investors looked for bargains, even if shoppers did not.

While the UK's mid cap index broke through the 22,000 ceiling for the first time ever, rallying 180-odd points, or roughly 0.8%, but the FTSE 100 endured a sleepy return from the festive break, losing earlier gains to nudge just a handful of points to the good and end at 7,640.

Earlier strength among mining stocks subsided through the day as firmer gains for steel producer Evraz and commodities trader Glencore evaporated to single percentage point increases, while private hospitals firm NMC remained the FTSE 100's weakest link, off 2% to £17.45, as it continues to struggle to win back investor support following the Muddy Waters bear raid allegations prior to the Christmas holiday.

By contrast, FTSE 250 stocks rallied strongly, led by 3%-plus gains for property investor CLS, telco kit tester Spirent and insurer Hastings.

INVESTORS MULL WASHOUT BOXING DAY SALES

Investors appeared to fret over early reports of a bleak Boxing Day for retailers could have gloomy implications for the sector.

Springboard said footfall up until midday on Boxing Day had seen the largest decline since 2010, down 10.6%. It said rainy weather, ongoing rise in online shopping and increased Black Friday spending were possible factors for the drop in footfall.

Even so, retail heavyweights Next and Marks & Spencer weathered the report storm, making solid 2% and 1% respectable gains to £72.56 and 218.3p respectively. But online fashion came under some pressure.

Hot online retail names such as ASOS and Boohoo both dipped modestly on Friday to £33.39 and 296.5p respectively. TheWorks.co.uk, another online specialist, failed to hang on to earlier gains, its share price drifting 1.8% to 27.2p.

ELSEWHERE ON A QUIET FRIDAY

Anglo African Oil & Gas slumped 10% on the news that it plans to sell its natural resources assets and become a cash shell.

Investment trust Downing Strategic Micro-Cap jumped nearly 7% higher on a national newspaper share tip, to 73p.

US Solar Fund nudged 1% higher on the news that it will buy eight operating solar projects in North Carolina.

88 Energy lost some of its earlier gains, adding 2.3% at 1.1p, after saying preparations were going to plan for the February drilling of its Charlie-1 appraisal well in Alaska.

Elsewhere, corporate news was very thin with only a handful of director appointments announced. Ex-Qinetiq and BAE Systems executive Clive Richardson is becoming Chairman of InfraStrata. Research professor Robin Rogers is joining Ross Group as a non-executive director.

On the NEX market, Imperial X said it would seek shareholder approval to scrap its current listing in favour of a higher profile one on London's Main Market. It also wants to switch focus from the cannabis investment market to buying oil and gas royalties.


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