* Sharp soars on report it will slash jobs
* Nitori jumps to record high on strong monthly sales
By Ayai Tomisawa
TOKYO, June 23 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks edged up in choppy trade on Thursday morning as investors held their breath before Britain votes to decide whether to remain part of the European Union.
The Nikkei share average rose 0.3 percent to 16,117.72 in midmorning trade after moving in and out of the black in early deals.
Two opinion polls published late on Wednesday, a few hours before voters were due to begin to cast their votes, showed the “Remain” camp gaining momentum in the closely divided campaign.
“Those who had sold on fears of Brexit seem to have adjusted their positions to neutral,” said Isao Kubo, an equity strategist at Nissay Asset Management.
“Most people at this point expect a rise in the market” on expectations the vote will favour Britain staying in the EU, he said. “But you never know, and it will be clear by tomorrow so you don’t want to take new positions now.”
Sharp Corp outperformed, jumping more than 8 percent after Kyodo news reported that its new boss confirmed plans to lay off 7,000 employees worldwide after Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co takes over the struggling Japanese firm.
Exporters were steady, with Toyota Motor Corp rising 0.4 percent, while Honda Motor Co and Panasonic Corp surging 1.5 percent each.
Discount furniture store chain operator Nitori Holdings soared 5.7 percent to a record high with heavy volume after its June same-store sales jumped 19.9 percent on the year.
The broader Topix gained 0.2 percent to 1,287.58 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 advanced 0.3 percent to 11,625.28. (Editing by Shri Navaratnam)