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Should you buy BHP Billiton Limited shares for 2016?

Credit: Lucas Walters

For shareholders of BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP), it hasn’t been the start to 2016 they’d been hoping for.

Following a disastrous run in 2015, plagued by crashing commodity prices, a disaster at one of its mines in Brazil and speculation over the sustainability of its ‘progressive dividend’ policy, the shares plunged roughly 34%, heavily underperforming the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) in the process.

Unfortunately, they’ve continued to fall even further this week. They’re down 2.7% today alone at $17.11 for a total loss of 4.2%, having fallen in each of the sessions so far in 2016.

While some investors and analysts expressed their confidence that the worst was surely over for BHP Billiton, conditions could continue to decline over the next 12 months. Indeed, oil prices are expected to continue falling – at least in the first half of the year as rising stockpiles combine with weak demand – while iron ore prices are also tipped to retreat following their recent recovery.

BHP Billiton’s shares might still be hovering near their lowest price in a decade, but if conditions do continue to worsen, then they could be in line for further losses. Most analysts expect the miner to cut its dividend in the coming years – especially if it continues to prioritise the strength of its balance sheet over shareholder returns – while earnings could also come under further pressure.

While BHP Billiton’s shares deserve a position on your watchlist, the headwinds facing the sector create an unnecessary risk for investors, in my opinion, particularly given that there are shares of plenty of other great companies also trading at very reasonable prices right now.

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Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman has no position in any stocks mentioned. Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ASXvalueinvest.

The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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