The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has its columned temple on Wall Street, and the Nasdaq Stock Market its multistory electronic ticker...

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NEW YORK — The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has its columned temple on Wall Street, and the Nasdaq Stock Market its multistory electronic ticker in Times Square. The NYSE has human traders, while the Nasdaq prides itself on fast, computerized trades.

Now the Big Board has an all-electronic exchange of its own.

Nasdaq’s answer?

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Throughout its 34 years, the Nasdaq Stock Market has continually rankled the NYSE, offering millisecond-fast trade executions as an alternative to the exchange’s 213-year tradition of floor-based trading and, in the process, gaining market share in trading of NYSE-listed stocks.

During the dot-com era, the Nasdaq even proved an NYSE listing was not necessarily the Good Housekeeping seal of investor approval. It listed the biggest names in tech, including Microsoft and Intel, both of which are now part of the 30 Dow Jones industrials.

It appeared the Nasdaq would continue to steadily gain market share through its electronic trading systems while the NYSE struggled to create a hybrid-electronic system, still 12 months off, to compete.

But with Wednesday’s announcement of a planned merger between the NYSE and Archipelago, a Chicago-based electronic trader, the Big Board has positioned itself to resume the battle to be America’s equity marketplace of choice.

For investors, such aggressive competition between the NYSE and Nasdaq could work to their benefit as the two slash fees and offer new products.


The electronic display in front of Nasdaq Stock Market site in Times Square is reflected on a car.

“I could see lower transaction fees and new innovative features coming about at the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq as they try to differentiate their offerings,” said Vincent Phillips, chief executive of Schwab’s CyberTrader subsidiary.

“It puts them head-to-head, face-to-face,” said Phillips. “They’re the two 800-pound gorillas now. It’s all about how they’re going to respond to each other.”

Nasdaq’s response is believed to be in the works.

According to numerous media reports, the Nasdaq is in talks to acquire Instinet, a rival all-electronic market that would give Nasdaq access to more customers, increased market share and stronger technologies.

Publicly traded Instinet is majority owned by Reuters Group. A Nasdaq purchase of Instinet is valued in news reports at between $1.8 billion and $2.5 billion.

Nasdaq and Instinet spokesmen wouldn’t comment on the reports.

Analysts said a Nasdaq-Instinet partnership would help stave off increased competition from the NYSE Group, the publicly traded entity that would result from the merger of the NYSE and Archipelago.

The Nasdaq itself has 50 percent market share in trading its own listed stocks, and 15 percent volume in NYSE-listed stocks.

Both Archipelago’s ArcaEx and Instinet have about 25 percent market share each in Nasdaq stocks and a minimal share in NYSE stocks.

The Big Board has more than 80 percent share in its own listings, and does not trade Nasdaq stocks on the floor of the exchange. But with ArcaEx, Nasdaq’s archrival has a vested interest in not only maintaining its own listed shares, but also stealing market share from Nasdaq.

An Instinet deal would be needed to shore up Nasdaq’s market share in its own stocks.

Instinet’s technology would also give Nasdaq an incremental increase in its own trading technologies at a time when the NYSE-Archipelago merger gives its chief competitor a huge leap forward into direct competition.

In Wednesday’s announcement, NYSE Chief Executive John Thain said there were “absolutely no” plans to do away with floor trading — an advantage the NYSE has over Nasdaq.

For the most part, prices on all-electronic markets aren’t too much more volatile than on the NYSE. But when there’s exceptionally good or bad news about a given stock — or a general sell-off or buying spree — an electronically traded stock tends to be far more volatile than a stock managed by humans.

It’s that kind of price security that may make the floor traders and specialists a selling point for the combined NYSE Group, especially in competition with all-electronic markets such as the Nasdaq and many global exchanges.

“You know, a lot of people are belittling the role of the floor, and you would think that with the evolution of electronic trading, it becomes less important,” said Yakov Amihud, professor of finance at New York University.

“But in our research, we’ve found that in times of intense volatility, where do traders go? They go to the floor.”