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BHP warns on short term commodities pain

In its annual report to shareholders today, BHP Billiton (ASX: BHP) has warned that commodity prices are likely to continue falling in the short term, thanks to increases in supply.

Increased supply has, however, exerted downward pressure on many commodity markets more recently and we expect this trend to continue over the short term. While lower rates of investment across the industry will ultimately lead to more balanced markets, all resources companies will need to improve productivity and be flexible enough to adapt to change in this more challenging environment,” says chairman Jac Nasser.

Australia’s three major miners, BHP, Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) and Fortescue Metals Group (ASX: FMG) have all ramped up their production of iron ore, as has Brazil’s Vale. Even junior miners such as BC Iron (ASX: BCI) are expecting greater output in the years ahead. Over the long term though, BHP expects strong demand for commodities as Asia becomes more developed.

“Over the long term, we maintain a positive outlook on commodity demand as the fundamentals of demographics and economic development assert themselves across Asia. Economic rebalancing in China will bring opportunities to a more diverse range of commodities, and development in South Asia will provide a degree of support to long-term demand for steelmaking raw materials. Overall, the long-term outlook for commodity markets is fundamentally linked to the scarcity of low-cost, expandable and high-quality development opportunities. When combined with attractive demand fundamentals for industrial metals, potash and energy, conditions are supportive of BHP Billiton’s low-cost, upstream and diversified strategy.”

BHP announced a further US$2.6 billion investment in the Jansen potash project during 2013, as it expects potash, a fertiliser that improves the yield and quality of agricultural production, to be in high demand over the long term.

Foolish takeaway

BHP’s diverse array of exposure to various commodities including iron ore, aluminium, manganese, nickel and copper, uranium, oil and gas, potash, coal means the company is well placed to see out any short term falls in commodity prices. If you want exposure to resources, BHP is pretty much the one-stop shop.

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King owns shares in BHP.

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