NASDAQ eyeing Philly stock exchange?

The NASDAQ Stock Market is thinking about buying the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, according to "people familiar with the matter," the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, reached by phone last night, would say only that the Philadelphia exchange has "talked to a large number of people." The Philadelphia exchange has about 400 employees.

The Wall Street Journal article said that the purchase would give NASDAQ "a sizable foothold in the options business, which is the Philadelphia exchange's forte." In the options business, investors trade the right but not the obligation to buy or sell a security in the future, the newspaper said.

Options trading is increasingly popular, it added.

It quoted sources as saying that the two exchanges had been "talking for months" but a deal wasn't imminent.

Philadelphia is the third-largest options exchange in the U.S. "by contracts traded," according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Philadelphia Stock Exchange was the first securities market in the U.S., founded in 1790, according to its Web site. NASDAQ is the largest U.S. electronic stock market. *