More pain for the S&P/ASX 200 as BHP Billiton Limited shares plunge

The day started out promisingly for the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO), with the main bourse rising as much as 0.6%, but it has proven incapable of holding onto those earlier gains. It is now sitting 0.7% lower around 1pm, Sydney time.

Investors responded warmly to China’s growth figures on Tuesday afternoon, relieved to see the world’s second-biggest economy wasn’t experiencing the hard-landing some analysts had been expecting. However, Wall Street struggled to gain traction overnight as those fears lingered, while the International Monetary Fund also warned that global growth could be “derailed” in the coming years if certain transitions in the world economy are not properly navigated.

To top it off, crude oil prices continue to linger below US$29 per barrel. That’s having a huge effect on the energy and gas sector today, with companies like Woodside Petroleum Limited (ASX: WPL), Santos Ltd (ASX: STO) and Origin Energy Ltd (ASX: ORG) all down between 2.7% and 6.8%.

BHP Billiton Limited’s (ASX: BHP) shares have also fallen to their lowest level in more than 10 years, down 3.6% at $14.20, while Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) is down 1.7%.

The banks aren’t providing much support either. While National Australia Bank Ltd. (ASX: NAB) has managed a slight gain, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ASX: ANZ) and Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC) have each fallen 2.3%.

It can be difficult to keep your emotions in check when the share market is so volatile, but rather than panicking, investors should be looking for opportunities in sectors not so vulnerable to a slowdown in China. It seems that many of these companies have been dragged down with the rest of the market and are presenting as great long-term prospects.

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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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