The New York Stock Exchange and the Archipelago Exchange announced last Wednesday that they have entered a merger agreement that will lead to the combined entity, NYSE Group, Inc., which would become the world's biggest stock exchange, valued at $4.7 billion; NYSE is worth $3.3 billion.

But according to reports over the weekend and again this morning, Richard A. Grasso, the Big Board's ousted chairman, is in talks with Wall Street bigwigs, to create a rival securities exchange of his own. One of those financiers is said to include Kenneth G. Langone, co-founder of Home Depot and former chairman of the compensation committee at the NYSE, which so richly rewarded Grasso. The reports first surfaced over the weekend at The Wall Street Journal Web site and appeared again this morning in the online edition of the New York Times.

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