Nikkei steady before U.S. payrolls; Toshiba gains on nuclear deal report

* Toshiba soars after Nikkei reports Westinghouse in talks to win nuclear deal

* U.S. jobs data eyed later Thursday

TOKYO, July 3 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks were flat in a choppy early session on Thursday as investors took time out ahead of the U.S. jobs data later in the day, while Toshiba Corp soared on a report that its U.S. subsidiary is expected to win a deal in Bulgaria. The Nikkei share average was steady at 15,365.95 in mid-morning trade after earlier tracking in positive territory. It gained 0.3 percent to 15,369.97 on the previous day, the highest closing level since June 24. A recent batch of positive global economic data, including from Japan, China and the United States, has helped spur Tokyo and global equities. Investors are now focused on U.S. payroll data after U.S. private employers hired 281,000 workers in June, far exceeding expectations for 200,000, data from payrolls processor ADP showed. The number bodes well for the government payroll data due before the market opens on Thursday. "If the data shows that the U.S. economy is in good health, Japanese shares in the auto and technology sector will likely be bought," said Hikaru Sato, a senior technical analyst at Daiwa Securities. Sato expects a strong payrolls report to boost Japanese automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp, Honda Motor Co and Fuji Heavy Industries, which have large exposure in the U.S. market. On Thursday, exporters pulled back as investors booked profits after the Nikkei's rally in the past three sessions. Toyota shed 0.4 percent, Honda dropped 0.5 percent and Sony Corp declined 1.3 percent. Toshiba outperformed the market, rising 3.2 percent and was the third most traded stock by turnover after the Nikkei business daily reported that Westinghouse Electric, its U.S. subsidiary, is in the final talks with Bulgarian Energy Holding for a reactor. The broader Topix shed 0.1 percent to 1,279.29, and the new JPX-Nikkei Index 400 slipped 0.1 percent to 11,627.14.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)