Which comes first: A stock rally that emboldens banks to make acquisitions — or a flurry of deals that bid up share prices?

The feedback loop between deal multiples and market multiples makes it hard to disentangle the two, and the historical record is difficult to read. Lately, however, deal announcements have been outpacing gains in both ratios. (See the following graphic. Interactive controls are described in the captions. Text continues below.)

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