* Apple biggest drag on S&P 500, Nasdaq after Nikkei report
* Gilead up after hep B drug found safe
* First Solar up after Goldman upgrades stock to buy
* Dow down 0.15 pct, S&P up 0.28 pct, Nasdaq down 0.26 pct (Updates to late afternoon, changes byline)
By Caroline Valetkevitch
Jan 5 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were near flat in choppy trading late Tuesday afternoon, though the Standard & Poor’s 500 edged higher, stabilizing after steep losses on the first trading day of the year.
A 2.2 percent drop in Apple Inc weighed on all three major indexes, while a fall in crude oil prices and a stronger dollar contributed to the year’s shaky start.
In a bid to stabilize its markets, the People’s Bank of China on Tuesday injected $20 billion into the financial system. Weak Chinese economic data drove stocks down on Monday.
Gilead Sciences Inc rose 1.7 percent to $99.64, helping to lift the S&P 500, after its experimental hepatitis B drug was found safer than, yet as effective, as its approved treatment Viread. Wal Mart Stores Inc shares, up 2.3 percent at $62.88, also were a boost, though strategists said choppiness could remain a key part of the year’s trading.
“We’re working off of a pretty significant decline on the first day of trading in 2016,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.
But “there are a lot of divergences on a macroeconomic, monetary and geopolitical front, any of which could undermine one’s base case for how the year should unfold,” he said. “I think it’s leaving investors puzzled, and that shows up in these kinds of moves where you’re trading off of noise rather than signal.”
At 3:19 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average was down 25.34 points, or 0.15 percent, to 17,123.6, the S&P 500 had gained 1.28 points, or 0.06 percent, to 2,013.94 and the Nasdaq Composite had dropped 12.69 points, or 0.26 percent, to 4,890.40.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,781 to 1,281, for a 1.39-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,412 issues rose and 1,379 fell for a 1.02-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
Apple shares were down 2.2 percent at $103.04 after the Nikkei reported that the iPhone maker was expected to cut production of its 6S and 6S Plus models.
Eli Lilly & Co shares rose 1.5 percent to $84.12 after the drugmaker said its diabetes treatment grabbed market share in the fourth quarter.
First Solar Inc was up 6.8 percent at $71.20 after Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock to “buy.”
The S&P 500 posted five new 52-week highs and six new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 18 new highs and 68 new lows. (Additional reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)