Direct Edge Holdings and rival BATS Global Markets, ranked third and fourth in trading volume, are discussing a merger, said those with knowledge of the talks. Such a link would create the second-biggest stock-exchange operator by volume, displacing Nasdaq OMX Group. But the endgame, say people familiar with executives' plans, is a large, international player. Register and take advantage of early-bird registration rates for SIFMA's 14th Annual Market Structure Conference, Oct. 17 in New York City.

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