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Stalling just shy of 2,500, the S&P 500 index’s long rally is now its third-strongest of all time.

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The elevation in U.S. stocks this week added a new credential to the continuing bull market: third-strongest ever.

While the S&P 500 index's rally has stalled just shy of 2,500, it's sitting a hefty 269 per cent higher than its March, 2009, nadir, surpassing the 266-per-cent advance notched during the 1949-56 bull market, data compiled by S&P Dow Jones Indices and Bloomberg show.

While the magnitude of gains may stoke concern among investors who are already on watch for a protracted pullback, the advance appears less impressive when measured by annualized returns. In fact, this one has been the fourth weakest by that measure out of 13 cycles, with a gain of about 17 per cent a year.

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The reason is duration – at 8 1/2 years, the bull market is already the second-longest ever, trailing only the 1990-2000 run during the dot-com era.

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