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S&P/ASX 200 lifts as bank share prices soar: What you need to know

The local share market has fallen in each of its last two sessions but that looks set to change today with the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) up more than 1% near lunchtime, defying a weak start from BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP).

BHP Billiton has severely underperformed the broader market over the last 12 months as a result of crashing commodity prices and the prospect of lower dividends, while the recent catastrophe at Samarco, Brazil, saw the shares sold down even further. They’ve fallen 3.1% so far this morning and are threatening to fall below the $19 per share mark for the first time since 2008.

Slater & Gordon Limited (ASX: SGH) has also started off poorly, falling another 40%, while Seven West Media Ltd (ASX: SWM) is down 3.5% so far for the day.

However, each of the big four banks have provided enough support to see the market rally higher. Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) is up 1.8%, while National Australia Bank Ltd. (ASX: NAB), Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ASX: ANZ) and Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC) have all risen between 1.4% and 1.5%.

Meanwhile, Wesfarmers Ltd (ASX: WES) is up 1.1%, Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX: TLS) has jumped 1.6% and CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) has gained 1.7%.

Although the sharemarket has been somewhat jumpy lately, the ASX 200 is still trading well below its high levels from earlier this year, presenting investors with a fantastic opportunity to buy high-quality companies at beaten-down prices.

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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.