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Apple’s earnings report will contain iPhone 6 launch clues

How will Apple’s quarterly earnings, due this afternoon (ET), inform its future product releases? Because the iPhone is such a big part of Apple’s business, and because its annual launches are such big events, the company’s revenue forecast for its September quarter should contain a few hints.

Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, did the math in a recent research report: A typical mid- to late-September iPhone launch generates about five to 12 days of sales before the end of the quarter, which falls on Sept. 27 this year for Apple. That week-long swing could represent a difference of 3-4 million iPhones sold during the quarter, or about $2 billion in sales. Given those assumptions, Munster expects Apple to forecast September-quarter sales between $39 billion and $41 billion. (Wall Street consensus is $40.4 billion, according to Yahoo Finance.)

Taking that a step further, an Apple forecast significantly above $41 billion might suggest an earlier-September iPhone launch, or some other feat of strength. Anything well below $39 billion might hint at a later launch—perhaps in October—or another shortcoming.

The Wall Street Journal reported ahead of the earnings report that Apple has placed a larger-than-expected order of 70-80 million units of its larger screen iPhones with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays by a Dec. 30 deadline, citing people familiar with the matter. But it’s unclear how many of those new iPhones would arrive in stores in time for the Sept. 27 quarterly cutoff.

Otherwise, it’s the slow part of the year for Apple—can you tell?—so today’s earnings report isn’t likely to contain any bombshells. Wall Street expects another quarter of modest growth, driven mostly by the iPhone. The iPad was a question mark for Apple in its last report, so it’ll interesting to see if it bounces back. Anything about the iWatch or future product categories isn’t likely to surface until Apple’s December quarter—too far away to show up in today’s numbers.

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