Stocks rose slightly on Friday as Wall Street looked for a fourth straight session of gains ahead of the start of earnings season next week.

Most of the advances in the holiday-shortened week, marked by volatility and low volume, were driven by hopes that U.S. corporations will post strong quarterly results when Alcoa Inc starts reporting season on Monday. Alcoa's shares, a component of the Dow index, rose 1.4 percent.

Google Inc shares added 2.2 percent after it said the Chinese government renewed Google's website license, averting a shutdown of its search page in the world's biggest Internet market. Shares of local rival Baidu Inc fell 1.9 percent.

The S&P 500 was on course for its best week this year, but sentiment remained fragile, with many investors concerned the global economy could slip back into recession. Even with the gains on Friday the S&P 500 is still down 12 percent since April and down 4 percent this year.

Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Robert W Baird & Co in Nashville, said that after this week's move the S&P 500 could be set to rise just above the 1,100 level.

We've got more room on the upside before this little move is over with, he said. The carrot is earnings, and I think the catalyst is the oversold condition we had and the pessimism that built up in recent weeks.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 22.71 points, or 0.22 percent, at 10,161.70. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 2.25 points, or 0.21 percent, at 1,072.50. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 5.89 points, or 0.27 percent, at 2,181.29.

The S&P was on course to close its best week since July 2009, but Bittles warned about making too much of that. It's very hard to read into these markets because of all the games that are played in low volume, he said.

Sales of U.S. wholesale goods fell unexpectedly for the first time in more than a year, lifting inventories to their highest level in 11 months, a government report showed on Friday.

Recent U.S. data showing slowing growth in the services and manufacturing sector, weakness in housing and a stagnating jobs market has worried investors, although most say it is too early to call a double-dip recession.

If there is some kind of double-dip out there to be had I don't think it's imminent, I'm not saying there's a 90-percent chance - there's a 50-percent chance, said Kim Caughey, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

Equity funds worldwide suffered more than $11 billion in net outflows in the first week of July, while money market funds saw the biggest inflows in 18 months amid fears of a double-dip recession, fund tracker EPFR Global said.

(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)