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FirstFT: Trump supporter bankrolls Robert F Kennedy Jr’s White House bid

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A top Republican donor to Donald Trump’s past presidential campaigns is helping to bankroll Robert F Kennedy Jr’s long-shot White House bid, as conservative cash keeps flowing to Joe Biden’s main challenger for the Democratic nomination.

According to federal filings released late yesterday, Timothy Mellon gave $5mn to American Values, the main political action committee supporting Kennedy’s White House bid.

Mellon, 81, is the grandson of Andrew Mellon, the former US Treasury secretary and senior banker, and a former executive in the transportation and infrastructure sector. He was one of Trump’s top donors in 2016 and 2020.

Kennedy, who is the son of the late Senator Robert Kennedy and nephew of the former president John F Kennedy, is known for his scepticism towards vaccines and his questioning of the US’s support for Ukraine in its war with Russia.

He is a distant threat to Joe Biden, who remains the firm favourite to secure the Democratic party’s nomination for next year’s presidential election, but he could still be a thorn in the president’s side if he continues to attract financial support.

On the Republican side, the leading oil tycoon Harold Hamm has called for Donald Trump to drop his bid for the White House.

Hamm, who has a net worth estimated at more than $20bn, urged the former president to play the role of “kingmaker” in the Republican party and back another candidate instead of seeking office himself in an interview with the Financial Times.

Meanwhile, Trump’s rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Ron DeSantis, vowed to “rein in” the Federal Reserve yesterday, in a major speech on the economy in New Hampshire.

The Florida governor blamed the US central bank for the high inflation, considering a digital currency and straying into social policy as he sought to reboot his struggling campaign.

Here’s what else I’m keeping tabs on today:

  • Results: Two large drugmakers, Pfizer and Merck, report second-quarter earnings. There are also results due from Starbucks, Uber, Caterpillar, Chesapeake Energy and Electronic Arts.

  • Economic data: Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics is expected to show job openings decreased in June compared to May and the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing PMI is expected to confirm that activity contracted for the ninth consecutive month.

Five more top stories

1. Exclusive: The owner of Facebook and Instagram plans to launch a range of artificial intelligence chatbots that exhibit different “personas” that are capable of having humanlike discussions. People close to the company said the new technology could be deployed as early as next month to interact with Meta’s nearly 4bn users. Read more on what form the chatbots could take, including Abraham Lincoln or a surfer.

2. HSBC has unveiled its second $2bn share buyback of the year after rising interest rates helped the UK bank post bumper quarterly profits of $8.8bn. The performance was largely driven by rising interest rates in the UK and US, which helped boost earnings even as growth faltered in its largest markets of Hong Kong and mainland China. Read more on the results which beat analysts’ expectations.

3. The US effort to increase munitions supplies for Ukraine is facing hurdles. Plans to deliver more 155mm calibre shells used in howitzers on the front line include supplies from international allies in the short term, but US Army efforts to increase monthly output of the crucial munitions to 90,000 will take until 2025. Read more about why production is taking so long.

4. The private equity owners of Birkenstock are considering an initial public offering that could value the German sandal maker at $8bn, according to people familiar with the matter. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan are advising on the potential listing that could take place as early as next month. Read more why the owners are looking to monetise their investment.

5. China’s leader Xi Jinping has replaced the two missing generals who had been in command of the country’s missile forces, in effect confirming the largest purge at the top levels of the military in a decade. Read more on Xi’s crackdown on the top generals running China’s army.

The Big Read

© FT montage/Getty Images/AP

From semiconductors and electric-car batteries to biotech and telecoms, South Korean companies are crucial players in sectors critical to Washington’s and Beijing’s national security and industrial strategy. But experts, officials and company executives all note that the country has already embarked on an unmistakable — albeit untrumpeted — pivot away from the Chinese economy.

We’re also reading . . . 

Chart of the day

The S&P 500 rose 3.1 per cent in July after closing up 0.2 per cent yesterday at 4,588.96. It was the blue-chip index’s fifth consecutive monthly increase, the longest such winning streak since the summer of 2021. Read more on the “weirdest” of market rallies.

Take a break from the news

. . . and enjoy this mouthwatering review of the best lobster rolls in the Hamptons. The expensive beach enclave on New York’s Long Island is still home to down-to-earth shacks and diners where you can tuck into this simple yet succulent snack.

Lobster rolls at the Clam Bar, Montauk

Additional contributions by Tee Zhuo and Benjamin Wilhelm

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