A rally is caused by a significant increase in demand resulting from a large influx of investment capital into the market. This leads to the bidding up of prices. The length or magnitude of a rally depends on the depth of buyers along with the amount of selling pressure they face. For example, if there is a large pool of buyers but few investors willing to sell, there is likely to be a large rally. If, however, the same large pool of buyers is matched by a similar amount of sellers, the rally is likely to be short and the price movement minimal.
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Rising investor confidence also indicates a rally, and it is perhaps more powerful than any economic indicator because when investors believe something is going to happen (a rally, for example), they tend to take action (purchasing shares in order to profit from expected price increases) that actually turn expectations into reality. Although it is an objective concept, investor sentiment shows through in mathematical measurements such as the put/call ratio, the advance/decline line, IPO activity, and the amount of outstanding margin debt.