StockMarketWire.com - Investors may have anticipated fireworks but what they got in trading on Wednesday was uninspiring drift.

Having opened initially, if not dramatically, in the red the benchmark FTSE 100 recovered those earlier losses as the session wore on to close marginally in the black after calming comments from US President Donald Trump.

The FTSE 100 index ended the Wednesday session just a single point to the good at 7,574.93.

But the mid cap FTSE 250 got a battering, slumping more than 0.8%, or 180-odd points, to 21,651.92.

It could have turned out far worse. 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.

The main threat investors worried about was the potential for an escalation in military action between Iranian and US forces, yet President Trump's comments eased those concerns and sparked a US rally that saw the tech heavy Nasdaq hit new records of 9,131.85.

Oil prices, which had rallied earlier in the day, lost their oomph, with Brent crude falling 2.6% to $66.50 at the close. Safe haven gold also declined, down 0.7% to $1,566.50, albeit from Monday's multi-year highs.

GRINCH DOMINATES SUPERMARKET'S CHRISTMAS

In corporate news, 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 1.6%, to 227.2p.

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 32p higher to £24.34.

A SIRIUS BUYOUT OFFER?

Potash miner Sirius Minerals jumped more than 35% to 5.55p 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 0.3% to £21.53.

Heading the FTSE 100 loser board once again is private hospitals operator NMC Health. Its shares plunged 16% to £12.575 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 18% in Wednesday trading, to 126p.; That compounded 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 0.5% in the red at the close on Wednesday following an announcement that it had appointed Shane Doherty as chief financial officer effective from April 2020.


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