Stocks surged on Tuesday as an unexpected leap in housing starts pushed Home Depot and other retailers higher while bullish comments from a broker on Cisco Systems buoyed technology shares.

Alcoa dropped after slashing its dividend and spending.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 178.73 points, or 2.48 percent, to end unofficially at 7,395.70. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> jumped 24.23 points, or 3.21 percent, to 778.12. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> surged 58.09 points, or 4.14 percent, to 1,462.11.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Jan Paschal)