The Wall Street Journal's Spencer Jakob looked back at how retail sales reports performed against economists' expectations during months when new iPhones were launched. Here's the pattern:
iPhone 3GS launched in June 2009, +0.5% expected, +1.22% actual
iPhone 4 launched in June 2010, -0.3% expected, +0.3% actual
iPhone 4s launched in October 2011, +0.1% expected, +0.93 % actual
It's unclear how much an iPhone accounted for each of the surprises. It's also unclear how much economists have considered the impact of the iPhone 5 in their current estimates.
But should iPhone sales provide a better-than-expected boost, the impact would be magnified by a seasonal adjustment. "Since September is traditionally one of the weakest months for sales of electronics, an iPhone-induced sales spike would be worth about 1.12 times as much as in an average month," writes Jakob citing Census data.
The iPhone is already affecting data in other parts of the world.
"We believe the release of iPhone 5 was the major cause behind the sudden pick-up of Taiwan’s trade activity with the mainland," writes Societe Generale economist Wei Yao. "These idiosyncratic factors are unlikely to repeat and China’s export growth is unlikely to rise persistently to year-end."
The retail sales report gets released at 8:30 AM EST.