The bank said pre-tax profits soared to £5bn, compared with the £4.1bn that analysts had forecast.
The nearly four-fold increase from the same period last year came as Barclays released impairment cash - money it had reserved during last year's uncertainty to cover the costs of loans that might turn bad.
Bosses had taken impairment charges totalling £3.7bn in the first half of last year.
But on Wednesday they said the improving economic outlook that Barclays' economists now predict will allow them to free up £742m from the impairment pot.
As a result, Barclays was able to unveil a 2p-per-share dividend, higher than the 1.8p that had been expected.
Chief executive Jes Staley said: "This has been a strong first half, clearly demonstrating the benefits of our resilient and diversified universal bank in supporting the growth of capital markets, our corporate clients and retail customers.
"Our investment banking fees and equities businesses have delivered record income, and we are seeing encouraging signs of recovery in consumer banking.
"Our profitability, strong capital position and balance sheet have enabled us to increase capital distributions to shareholders."
He added: "We have also demonstrated our ability, and willingness, to support customers and clients through the pandemic, and we are mindful that this support will need to continue as we see the pandemic subside."
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