StockMarketWire.com - The FTSE 100 recovered earlier losses in midday trading on Wednesday but remained barely in the black as events in the Middle East continue to worry investors.

Overnight, Iran carried out a missile attack on two air bases in Iraq housing US troops in retaliation for the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. Reports suggest that more than a dozen missiles were launched from Iran on the two air bases in Irbil and Al Asad, west of Baghdad.

While it is still unclear if the attacks led to any casualties, investors will be concerned that military action between Iranian and US forces could escalate over the coming days.

Oil prices rallied in response with Brent crude up .8% at midday at $68.80, close to four month highs, although safe haven gold declined 0.7% to $1,566.50, albeit from Monday's multi-year highs.

The benchmark FTSE 100 bobbed between positive and negative territory at midday, nudging less than a single point higher to 7,574.17. But the mid cap FTSE 250 got a battering, slumping 0.7%, or 157.5 points, to 21,675.17.

GRINCH DOMINATES SUPERMARKET'S CHRISTMAS

Supermarket Sainsbury got a lacklustre response from investors as it reported a like-for-like sales slide over Christmas, with toys sales at Argos really struggling.

The UK's number two supermarket posted a 0.7% fall in like-for-likes in the 15 weeks to 4 January 2020, although online grocery sales did rise 7.3%, prompting chief executive Mike Coupe to talk up the chain's digital investments.

Sainsbury's share price flagged by more than 1%, to 228.6p.

The Sainsbury figures followed under-whelming Christmas trading update yesterday from rival Morrison, whose shares slide another 1% on Wednesday to 193.4p.

On a brighter note, Greggs sales continue to rally on its popular vegan sausage rolls and more, with the bakery chain reporting that it expected profit to be 'slightly higher' due to a 'strong' performance in the latter part of last year.

For the 52 weeks ended 28 December, total sales rose 13.5% year-on-year and company-managed shop like-for-like sales were up 9.2%.

That saw Greggs shares reverse earlier losses as investors digested the news, nudging 4p higher to £24.06.

A SIRIUS BUYOUT OFFER?

Potash miner Sirius Minerals jumped nearly 35% to 5.51p after the cash-strapped company revealed ongoing 'advanced' talks with mining industry giant Anglo American over a potential takeover.

The deal would see Sirius shareholders receive 5.5p per share of cash.

Anglo American stock dipped around 1.25% to £21.33.

Heading the FTSE 100 loser board once again is private hospitals operator NMC Health. Its shares plunged 15% to £12.73 after major stakeowners sold off a 15% chunk of the business at £12 per share.

Those same NMC shareholders have also downsized their stakes in Finablr, the financing business that owns ransomware attacked Travelex. The popular foreign exchange business has been targeted by cyber criminals who are demanding up to £4m in exchange for releasing stolen and encrypted Travelex data through the REvil ransomware virus.

Finabr shares crashed by more than 16% in Wednesday trading, to 129p, compounding a sharp decline since mid-December, when the stock was changing hands at 210p.

Value footwear retailer Shoe Zone lost nearly 3% to 157.5p after it admitted it had been a 'difficult year'.

Shoe Zone revenues grew to £162m, while pre-tax profit was down to £9.6m in its preliminary results for the 53 weeks to 5 October 2019.

Irish homebuilder Cairn Homes reversed earlier modest gains to trade 1.7% in the red at midday on Wednesday following an announcement that it had appointed Shane Doherty as chief financial officer effective from April 2020.


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