WASHINGTON – The US central bank was a pretty profitable business in 2010, returning $79.3 billion to the government, much of it interest on securities bought to prop up the economy, it said Tuesday.

The Federal Reserve published its official accounts showing a net profit of $81.7 billion, a 53 percent hike from the previous year's $53.4 billion.

Of that it said it would deliver $79.3 billion to the US Treasury, 67 percent more than the government's take for 2009.

Nearly $45 billion of its earnings came from mortgage-backed securities it absorbed when their values had plummeted in 2008, putting the financial institutions which owned them in danger.

Critics at the time said the Fed was risking taxpayer money on junk assets, though the securities it bought were mostly better-quality assets from state-owned financiers.

It also earned $26 billion from securities it bought from the Treasury, part of its operations to stimulate the economy as it moves slowly back from recession.