Nikkei up slightly in choppy trade, Kirin Holdings soars on dividend hopes

* Kirin jumps on dividend hike report

* U.S.-Japan yield spread key to Nikkei's gain - analyst

TOKYO, March 26 (Reuters) - Japan's Nikkei share average was modestly higher on Wednesday, with early trade characterised by choppiness ahead of the fiscal year end although Kirin Holdings soared on a report that it will raise its dividend. The Nikkei tacked on 0.2 percent to 14,443.43 in mid-morning trade, stepping away from an early spike to a one-week high of 14,569.9. A clean break of the 200-day moving average of 14,513.21 could prompt more buying, though investors appear to be cautious before the March 31 fiscal year end, and a scheduled sale tax hike on April 1. "There is few domestic catalysts to move the Japanese market as a whole," said Hikaru Sato, senior technical analyst at Daiwa Securities. "Unless the U.S. long-term yield reaches 2.8 percent and Japan-U.S. yield spread widens, the Nikkei is likely to stay well below 15,000." On Tuesday, U.S. benchmark 10-year notes were down 1/32 in price to yield 2.73 percent. Japanese stocks have struggled in recent weeks on the back of a slew of weak economic data, concerns over the impact of the sales tax hike, slowing growth in China and the Ukraine crisis. On Wednesday, Kirin Holdings took the spotlight, jumping 3.1 percent to a two-week high of 1,368 yen. The rise was spurred by a Nikkei report which cited President Senji Miyake as saying that the company will boost its annual dividend to at least 40 yen per share next fiscal year, an increase of 2 yen from the estimate for this fiscal year. The Nikkei also said the brewery may buy back its own shares totalling tens of billions of yen by the end of December 2015.

Exporters were mixed as the weak yen trend paused. Honda Motor Co dropped 0.7 percent, Panasonic Corp shed 0.2 percent and Toyota Motor Corp gained 0.8 percent. The dollar edged up 0.1 percent to 102.38, hovering above this month's low of 101.205. The broader Topix gained 0.4 percent to 1,168.69, while the JPX-Nikkei Index 400, an index comprised of companies with a high return on equity and robust corporate governance, rose 0.3 percent to 10,561.71.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)