A MERGER AGREEMENT between the New York Mercantile Exchange and Commodity Exchange Inc. will be signed in the near future.

That seems likely now that the thorny issue of governance of a "super exchange" has been resolved and a new Comex chairman has been chosen, industry observers said. Also, the election of a new chairman clears the way for further progress on the merger.Although the exchanges probably will have a new name, "both will remain autonomous" in areas of product development and floor trading activities.

Officials at both exchanges are committed to a merger, but the membership remains divided, despite assurances that a merger would not adversely affect their business. Any agreement would be careful not to dismantle the present trading structure, said Z. Lou Guttman, Nymex chairman.

Proponents of the merger say a consolidated exchange would serve as the parent of Comex and Nymex. The parent would consolidate administrative work at both exchanges, computer systems and other electronic hardware, and other non- floor trading activities.

A majority of the membership from both sides probably would vote for merger at this time, although some members still have their reservations, observers said. Nymex's Mr. Guttman has indicated that a final merger agreement should be reached in April.

But Charles E. Federbush, a former Comex board member and precious metals trader, said he would not expect agreement to come that quickly or easily. He may have echoed many of his colleagues when he said "you can merge two billion dollar companies easier than merging Nymex and Comex."