BHP Billiton Limited shares plunge 4%: what you need to know

There really is no telling just how low the BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP) share price will go.

After a horror run on the ASX last week, the global miner has kicked this week off on an even worse note, sliding 4.1% to just $15.68 per share. It’s the lowest price the shares have traded at in more than a decade and puts them on a total loss of 12.2% since the beginning of the 2016 calendar year.

Source: Google Finance

Source: Google Finance

Making it worse for investors is that there is no single reason behind the miner’s decline. For instance, last week’s crash was largely caused by the plunging oil prices, with oil now trading for less than US$34 a barrel. The iron ore price also fell 1.2% in its latest session to US$42.13 a tonne, with experts predicting further falls for both resources.

The slowdown in China is another huge concern for the miner and could translate into further decreases in demand for resources – especially as it transitions from an economy driven by infrastructure growth to one driven by services. China’s share market has also crashed, sending knock on effects throughout equity markets around the globe over the last week.

Although BHP has been relentless on cutting production costs from its business, the efficiency improvements haven’t been enough to offset the impact of these crashing commodity prices which have weighed on cash flows and overall group earnings. It is feared that this could lead to further impairment charges and the potential scrapping of its ‘progressive dividend’ policy.

Where to in 2016?

It has also been argued that BHP’s shares are falling as a result of what is known as ‘capitulation’, which occurs when investors are willing to sell at any price just to get out of a falling stock. In other words, the company’s share price has fallen so hard and so fast that investors sell simply to stop the pain.

While that is possible, it is also clear that conditions in the global resources industry are deteriorating and that the latest economic data coming out of China is by no means encouraging for the miner.

With that in mind, it’s unclear how far the BHP Billiton share price could fall, or if it is near the stage of bottoming out. With the shares already down more than 12% in a little over a week however, the signs are looking ominous that BHP Billiton shareholders could be in for another tough run this year.

Considering the risks facing the business, and the industry as a whole, investors may be wise to remain on the sidelines for now and instead focus their attention on some of the market’s other attractive opportunities.

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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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