Why the BHP Billiton Limited share price is skyrocketing today

Credit: Lucas Walters

Shares of global mining giant BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP) have rebounded in a big way today, soaring 5.3% to $15.02. That compares to a 1.1% rise for the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) benchmark.

BHP Billiton’s shares have come under considerable pressure over the last 12 months and experienced a particularly shaky start to 2016 as a result of crashing oil prices.

That trend looked set to continue this week as oil plunged from US$36 a barrel to less than US$33, but the resource’s price actually surprised on the upside overnight. Brent crude rallied more than 5% to around US$34.40 a barrel, while US crude jumped 8% in New York, which was partially a result of the falling US dollar.

Better yet, some analysts are forecasting a strong rally before the end of the year which could see prices climb towards US$50 a barrel. Shares of other energy producers such as Woodside Petroleum Limited (ASX: WPL) and Santos Ltd (ASX: STO) are also benefiting from the outlook, rising 3.8% and 8.8%, helping to reverse some of their losses from earlier in the week.

At the same time, BHP Billiton is also benefiting from the recent strength in the iron ore price, which rose another 1.8% to US$44.63 a tonne overnight, according to data from The Metal Bulletin.

Oil and iron ore are BHP’s two most important commodities, but also the two that have caused the most damage to the miner’s earnings in recent times. Given that the miner is frantically cutting costs and improving operating efficiencies, investors will be hopeful that high prices will translate into greater earnings and cash flows in the current and upcoming earnings periods.

However, investors shouldn’t get too excited just yet. The recent strength experienced in the iron ore market isn’t expected to last for long while a number of other analysts suggest oil prices could get much worse before they get better as a result of rising supplies and waning demand.

Indeed, it was that outlook which prompted Standard & Poor’s to downgrade BHP’s credit score by one notch earlier this week. That will almost certainly lead to a significant cut in the miner’s dividends to shareholders, which have acted as one of the few shining lights for BHP in recent years.

Although BHP’s shares are languishing near their lowest price in more than a decade, there is every chance they could fall even further from here with some analysts suggesting a target price of less than $10. I’m certainly not buying shares in the miner just yet, and think there are far better opportunities for investors to take advantage of instead.

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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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