Wall Street stocks rose on Tuesday as traders took positions in beaten-down shares ahead of the start of the earnings season.

But gains were held in check as investors were cautious before a key vote by Slovakia on expanding the euro zone rescue fund.

The S&P 500 has risen 8.7 percent in the last five days, the best move in that period of time since March 2009, recovering from steep losses tied to worries about the euro zone debt crisis.

With earnings season beginning after the close of trading with Alcoa's report, investors hoped for more gains.

We're seeing positive momentum ahead of earnings season here, said Wayne Kaufman, chief market strategist at John Thomas Financial in New York. The market was overshot on the downside and now we're making it up to a certain degree. Valuations are at levels where stocks should be much higher.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 7.26 points, or 0.06 percent, at 11,440.44. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> added 2.15 points, or 0.18 percent, at 1,197.04. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> put on 17.25 points, or 0.67 percent, at 2,583.30.

Europe remained a wild card. With all the other euro zone states having ratified a pact to boost the size and powers of the European Financial Stability Facility bailout fund, all eyes turned to Slovakia.

Slovakia's lawmakers began debate on the issue and its finance minister said the country was expected to approve the changes this week.

Any more delays in coming up with a plan intended to stem a financial crisis could give the market an excuse to sell down the road.

Investors shifted their focus to upcoming earnings, with results due from top U.S. aluminum producer Alcoa Inc after the closing bell. Alcoa's stock was up 2.7 percent to $10.35, making it the best performer on the Dow.

Expectations are so low that Alcoa doesn't have to say a lot in order to beat expectations, said King Lip, chief investment officer at Baker Avenue Asset Management in San Francisco. Everyone expects a double-dip recession, so all you need is a little bit of good news and markets could take off on that.

In the past week, analysts have lowered their consensus earnings estimates for Alcoa, citing a precipitous drop in metals prices in recent months sparked by global economic concerns.

At midday, about one stock advanced for every decliner on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq. About 2.87 billion shares were traded on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq, lower than average.

(Reporting by Ashley Lau; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)