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Royal Bank of Scotland Plc (RBS) - Get Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc Report  posted a rare first half profit Friday as the government-owned lender strengthened its balance sheet and increased trading activity in its key divisions.

RBS posted a profit attributable to shareholders of £1.169 million ($1.53 billion) for the six months ending in June, the bank said, swinging to profit from a £108 million loss over the same period last year. On a pre-tax baiss, however, the bank recorded a loss of £137 million, a figure that narrowed from the £915 million loss posted in the first six months of 2016. Operating expenses, the bank said, rose 15% from the same period last year to just over £1 billion, which it linked to restructuring costs at its NatWest Markets division. 

"Our progress in the first half of the year means that today we can spend less time talking about the bank we were and more about the bank we are becoming," said CEO Ross McEwan. "We see the first six months of this year as proof of the investment case for this bank: our path to sustainable profitability is becoming clearer and closer and we have resolved some of the most significant issues this bank faced. "

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Income from trading activity, the bank said, was tabbed at £971 million for the six month period, up from a loss of £102 million over the same period last year. The bank's core capital ratio, which measures the amount of cash a lender must set aside to cushion against potential losses, improved by 140 basis points to 14.5%.

McEwan said there was no update on its ongoing discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice with respect to an ongoing investigation into the mis-selling of mortgage bonds into the global financial crisis.

RBS shares closed at 2,562 pence each in London Thursday after rising 2.11% on the session and taking their year-to-date gain to just over 14%. 

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