Tim Mullaney, USA TODAY

Federal taxpayers have nearly recouped their $188 billion investment in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance giants taken over by the government in 2008.

Third-quarter profit rose sharply at both companies, each reported Thursday, letting Freddie Mac finish reimbursing taxpayers for its bailout and bringing Fannie within about $2 billion of repaying what it received.

Their recovery owes much to an improving housing market, legal settlements and tax benefits.

Fannie said net income more than quadrupled compared with last year’s third quarter, reaching $8.7 billion. Freddie said it earned $30.5 billion, as a $6.5 billion operating profit was combined with a $24 billion tax benefit.

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