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Mark Carney, left, and George Clooney
Mark Carney, left, and George Clooney

The Week

Mark Carney treated like a king (until the royal baby comes along) Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business followed this week.

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Mark Carney is being treated like a king.

On the one hand, he’s something of a market darling. On the other, a media darling.

Indeed, one would be hard pressed to recall another time when a central banker, handsome devil though he may be, was compared to a movie star.

First, a recap of Mr. Carney’s week, which puts it all in perspective.

On Sunday, in a BBC profile, he was likened to George Clooney and dubbed “the ‘film star’ central banker” whose “tidy hair and relaxed smile have helped him become something of a celebrity in his native Canada.” Pictures of both men ran side by side on the website.

Then on Monday, he started his new job as governor of the Bank of England, becoming the first foreigner to hold the post in its 319-year history. Not only that, he gave up his chauffeur and took the subway to work, and was on the job by 7 a.m.

“That, along with the news that he got there by way of the Underground, helped endear him to London's early-rising commuters,” said the BBC.

(Who wouldn’t love a guy who joins the common folk on the tube and looks like George Clooney?)

Later in the week, he promised to address a controversy brewing since the pre-Carney Bank of England announced its decision to replace the image of social reformer Elizabeth Fry with Winston Churchill on the £5 banknote, a move that would leave no women on British money but for the Queen.

Said Mr. Carney: “I believe that our notes should celebrate the diversity of great British historical figures and their contributions in a wide range of fields.”

(Who wouldn’t love a guy who says that and looks like George Clooney?)

Then on Thursday, he had his biggest impact, in the markets at least, as the central bank’s monetary policy committee broke with tradition and issued a longer-than-normal policy statement that suggested speculation of a rate move was overdone, a signal in itself. The Bank of England is now expected to move to full-scale guidance at its next meeting in August.

The central bank’s action, a tool of Mr. Carney’s when he was governor of the Bank of Canada, drove down the pound and sent British stock prices surging.

(Who wouldn’t love a guy who can do all that and looks like George Clooney?)

On the market side of things, Mr. Carney and his committee stunned investors and analysts who hadn’t seen it coming.

On the same day, in fact, the European Central Bank also began guiding markets with the suggestion that interest rates would remain low for an extended period, and perhaps may even fall.

This is a distinctly North American way of doing things, used for some time now at both the Bank of Canada and the Federal Reserve.

As The Globe and Mail’s Brian Milner reports, the move is an important one in that it gives some certainty to bond markets, businesses and other investors.

At the same time, Britain’s media has taken an intense interest in the new governor and his wife, economist Diana Carney.

News organizations had already put the couple under the spotlight, scrutinizing things like Mr. Carney’s pay package.

This week, as The Globe and Mail’s Paul Waldie writes from London, there was something of a frenzy as one newspaper reported on a blog post of hers from months ago, when she said she didn’t like tea bags that are individually wrapped.

“Rarely has a man been of such interest to the media that even his wife's views on tea bags merited a few column inches,” said the BBC.

All in all, it was a heck of a first week for Mr. Carney, who is clearly putting his stamp on the Old Lady of Threadneedle, as the Bank of England is called, promising a new era for central banking in Britain.

Which, presumably, was why he was courted by George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

“Carney was imported to deliver, in the chancellor's words, ‘monetary activism’ and he has not been slow to act,” said chief U.K. economist Brian Hilliard of Société Générale.

As for being a media star, Mr. Carney may well be pushed out of the limelight when the royal baby is born, George Clooney looks notwithstanding.

The week in Business Briefing

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Follow on Twitter: @michaelbabad

 
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