Stocks surged on Tuesday, with the Nasdaq up more than 3 percent, as an unexpected rise in February housing starts and an upbeat broker comment on bellwether Cisco Systems gave investors confidence.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 126.64 points, or 1.76 percent, to 7,343.61. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 18.88 points, or 2.50 percent, to 772.77. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> jumped 45.43 points, or 3.24 percent, to 1,449.45.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos)