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Equilibrium's Finance and Investment News Roundup

The past seven days have been dominated by talk of Britain's potential exit from the European Union. Our roundup this week looks at Boris Johnson's support of 'Brexit', but also a stark warning from businesses about the negative economic impact that such a move could bring. We also cover a profits plunge for Standard Chartered and bring news of an increasing number of people switching energy providers to reduce outgoings.


Boris Johnson announces Brexit support, pound plunges

The pound plunged to its biggest one-day loss in almost six years on Monday amid concerns that Britain could be set to leave the European Union (EU). Sterling fell by up to 3% during the day as it dropped close to a near seven-year low against the dollar. The lows of near $1.40 have not been recorded since March 2009 and the movement was triggered by London mayor Boris Johnson and a number of other Cabinet ministers expressing support of the 'Brexit'.

Prime Minister David Cameron is currently campaigning to keep Britain in the EU ahead of a referendum on the matter on June 23. Mr Johnson announced his support of leaving the bloc on Sunday, however, demonstrating that some members of the Conservative Party are divided on the campaign.

While Mr Cameron described leaving the EU as "a great leap into the unknown", Mr Johnson said he believes those who do not think Britain could stand on its own two feet are "profoundly wrong". 

Bosses warn of Brexit economic risk

Bosses of some of the UK's biggest companies have warned of the economic risks should Britain choose to leave the EU. In a letter published in the Times newspaper, the chairmen or chief executives of 36 FTSE 100 companies announced their support of remaining in the bloc.

The letter, signed by representatives of Marks & Spencer, BT and Vodafone, among others, claimed that a Brexit would put the UK economy at risk, threaten jobs and deter investment in the UK.

Including the FTSE bosses, a total of 198 signatures from the business world were featured in the letter. However, those in support of leaving the EU have pointed out that a number of large UK organisations, including Tesco, Sainsbury's and Barclays, had not signed the letter. 

Standard Chartered profits 'fell by 84% in 2015'

Standard Chartered endured a profits drop of 84% last year, representing its worst result since 1998. Weak commodity prices, volatile markets and low interest rates have been cited as the main reasons for the plunge, which resulted in the bank's shares tumbling by as much as 10% on Tuesday.

The bank announced an underlying pre-tax profit of $800 million (£567 million), which represented a significant fall from the $5.2 billion recorded in 2014, while restructuring costs of $1.8 billion contributed to the bank reporting a loss before tax of $1.5 billion.

Standard Chartered had announced in November that it aims to become profitable again by cutting 15,000 jobs and raising $5.1 billion in capital. 

Increasing numbers switching energy providers to save money

An increasing number of people are opting to switch energy providers in an effort to reduce spending. This is according to new findings from Ofgem, which revealed the number of UK households making such a move climbed by 15% in 2015.

The figures showed that 6.1 million gas and electricity accounts were transferred last year, about 800,000 more than the year before.

Improved competition in the market is seen as one of the main drivers of the movement and Ofgem's Rachel Fletcher commented: "It's encouraging to see switching levels at their highest level for four years."