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ECB president Christine Lagarde; Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The biggest event for markets this week will be Thursday's meeting of the European Central Bank's governing council and the press conference following it from ECB president Christine Lagarde.

Why it matters: With interest rates jumping around the globe, investors are looking to central bank heads to see if they will follow the lead of Fed chair Jerome Powell, who says rising rates are nothing to worry about, or Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda, who has drawn a line in the sand on rates.

The big picture: Government bond yields are rising because central bankers say they want inflation, but rising inflation expectations come with higher borrowing costs in a world that already is indebted to the tune of 356% of global GDP with no real plan to reduce its debt load.

The latest: The continuation of the selloff in equities seen on Friday could push policymakers toward a new sense of urgency.

  • European stocks, like their U.S. counterparts, have sunk in recent weeks as interest rates have risen at spectacular speed, drawing the attention of central bankers as diverse as Kuroda, the Fed's Lael Brainard, Reserve Bank of Australia's Philip Lowe and Bank of Korea's Lee Ju-yeol in the last two weeks.

What they're saying: Lagarde said in late February that the ECB was “closely monitoring” interest rates, but has not firmly committed to taking action that could include increasing the central bank's bond-buying programs or even lowering its -0.5% interest rate, as other members of the governing council have suggested.

  • The majority of economists in a Bloomberg survey expect the ECB to increase emergency asset purchases to counter rising bond yields.
  • Stepping up bond purchases or adding to its pandemic emergency purchase program would mark a turn from verbal intervention to market intervention.

Where it stands: The world's leading industrialized central banks — the Fed, BOJ and ECB, which collectively hold around $23 trillion on their balance sheets — are facing a moment of truth.

  • With the Fed meeting next week, March 16-17, and markets expecting Powell and company to make no changes to their current policy, the actions of the ECB could set the tone for a new phase of action to tame rapidly rising rates.
Data: Investing.com; Chart: Axios Visuals

The concern from ECB leaders over rising bond yields is especially notable given how much more U.S. government yields have moved higher than their European counterparts this year.

By the numbers: German 10-year government bond yields, the European benchmark, have risen from -0.61% to start the year to -0.30% as of Friday.

  • U.S. 10-year Treasury yields have gone from 0.92% to start the year to 1.58% on Friday.

What it means: The increase in U.S. Treasury yields has been more than double that of comparable German bunds and pushed the spread between the two to its most negative in more than a year.

Go deeper

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

51 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.

House votes to ban imports from Xinjiang over forced labor concerns

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The House voted 428-1 on Wednesday to pass a bill that would ban all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless the U.S. government determines that the products were not made with forced labor.

Why it matters: Both the Trump and Biden administrations, as well as several foreign parliaments, have recognized China's repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.