NEW YORK - LaBranche & Co., one of the largest New York Stock Exchange specialist firms, was close to an agreement late Friday to acquire a smaller New York exchange specialist, Robb Peck McCooey Financial Services Inc., sources familiar with the talks said.

A LaBranche spokesman declined to comment. Representatives from Robb Peck could not be reached by deadline.

There has been a wave of consolidation among specialist firms, which are facing profit squeezes. LaBranche, founded in 1924, makes markets in 400 stocks, including American Express Co., Conseco, Berkshire Hathaway, and First Union Corp. Robb Peck, founded in 1925, makes markets in 200 stocks, including Wells Fargo & Co.

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