NEW YORK, MARCH 3 -- Officials at the major financial exchanges in Chicago and New York have agreed to establish a communications "hot line" for use during market crises and are working to develop other information systems that will more closely link the country's stock and futures markets.

Agreement on the proposed hot line was reached during a series of meetings between exchange officials and regulators last month, according to sources involved in the talks.

The meetings between exchange officials, which are continuing, are designed in part to head off the threat of market reform legislation in Congress by demonstrating that the rival exchanges in New York and Chicago can initiate reforms on their own.

Congressional sources said that legislation mandating a formal crisis management system for the New York and Chicago financial exchanges is now being drafted, but that no bills will be introduced until the exchanges have had time to develop their own plans. At the same time, the General Accounting Office is developing recommendations for a crisis management system.

While technical details of the hot line system have not been completed, officials said it would provide a formal method for executives at the leading financial exchanges -- including the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade -- to swap information and coordinate action during a crisis.

In addition to the hot line agreement, talks are continuing about unified systems of information exchange, surveillance of market abuses and processing of securities trades, according to officials involved. If agreements in those areas are reached, it would create new technological and administrative links between the stock exchanges in New York and the futures markets in Chicago.

"They are discussing ways to improve communication between markets and enhance the levels of information both in terms of providing more information and increasing speed," said Richard Torrenzano, a NYSE spokesman.

As for the hot line, Torrenzano said that "some things were put together quickly {in October} to try to make that happen, but as we move along the system will become more sophisticated."

Said William Brodsky, president of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, "We absolutely support anything and everything that would create better communications between the exchanges and the regulators, both during normal times as well as emergencies."

Failure to address the increasing interdependence of the country's stock and futures markets was cited by the Brady Commission as an important factor in the market crisis last October. The Brady Commission, which was appointed by President Reagan to study the crisis, found that "the failure of these {stock and futures} market segments to perform as one market contributed to the violence of the market break."

The stock and futures markets have grown more interdependent in recent years because of the rise of computer-assisted trading strategies known as portfolio insurance and index arbitrage. In these strategies, investors seek to curb losses by hedging stock ownership in the futures markets or else attempt to profit on the difference between stock prices in New York and corresponding futures prices in Chicago.

Negotiations over ways to improve links between the Chicago and New York exchanges began in earnest after a meeting in early February.

A second top-level meeting is scheduled for March 16, according to sources.

While some officials involved in the talks characterized the progress so far as encouraging, others were more skeptical, noting that no breakthroughs had been made on the major sources of controversy between the New York and Chicago exchanges.Those issues include whether to allow one regulator to oversee both stock and stock futures trading practices, and whether to increase the amount of cash that must be posted by investors in the futures markets.