* Crude falls after 4-day rally
* ADP employment falls short of expectations
* Merck down after earnings, Disney climbs
* Indexes: Dow up 0.1 pct, S&P off 0.4 pct, Nasdaq down 0.2 pct (Updates to midday, changes byline)
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, Feb 4 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq eased on Wednesday, in the wake of a two-day rally, as Gilead and other biotech names declined and energy shares reversed course with oil prices.
Walt Disney kept the Dow in positive territory. Disney shares jumped 8.3 percent to $101.86 after quarterly profit topped analysts’ expectations.
Leading biotechnology shares lower was Gilead Sciences , whose stock dropped 7.5 percent, a day after the drugmaker said it is offering steeper-than-expected discounts on its hepatitis C drugs to health insurers and other group payers who had complained about the price.
The news fueled concerns the sector would face increasing price pressure, The Nasdaq Biotech Index was down 1.4 percent. Gilead was also the biggest drag on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq.
Also in the healthcare space, Merck shares lost 4 percent after the drugmaker reported slightly disappointing fourth quarter sales.
The S&P 500 energy index was off 1.5 percent as oil prices declined after a four-day surge of nearly 20 percent. U.S. crude was down 5.3 percent at $50.23 following a new build in U.S. crude stockpiles.
The day’s dip move follows a 2-day gain of 2.8 percent for the S&P 500, driven largely by a jump in energy shares.
“It does seem as if the trading world has focused in on the price of crude oil as being the best barometer of what’s going on in terms of economic activity,” said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer, North Star Investment Management Corp., Chicago.
At 12:49 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average rose 9.49 points, or 0.05 percent, to 17,675.89, the S&P 500 lost 7.08 points, or 0.35 percent, to 2,042.95 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 10.55 points, or 0.22 percent, to 4,717.19.
Shares of cable and telecom operators rose sharply after Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, in an op-ed published on Wired.com, said he aims to establish the “strongest open Internet protections ever proposed by the FCC” that would apply, for the first time, to both wireless and wired broadband providers. Shares of Comcast were up 2.4 percent.
On the economic front, U.S. labor market data disappointed. The ADP National Employment Report showed private employers added 213,000 jobs in January, short of the 225,000 estimate.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,894 to 1,095, for a 1.73-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,465 issues fell and 1,182 advanced, for a 1.24-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The S&P 500 was posting 31 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 68 new highs and 23 new lows. (Additonal reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)