The BHP Billiton Limited share price has plunged 48% over the last year

BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP) was once thought to be one of Australia’s biggest and safest shares.

But not anymore. In what has been a disastrous run for shareholders of the ‘Big Australian’, BHP’s shares have plummeted more than 65% over the last five years, and 48% in the most recent 12 months. They’re down more than 3% today alone at just $15.17 a share.

Source: ASX website; one-year BHP share price chart

Source: ASX website; one-year BHP share price chart

Indeed, BHP’s share price has been dragged lower by a multitude of factors. While a disaster at one of its iron ore mines in Brazil last year hasn’t helped, the main damage has been caused by costly capital management decisions, a slowdown in China’s economic growth and plummeting commodity prices.

BHP Billiton spun-off the majority of its ‘non-core’ assets into South32 Ltd (ASX: S32) in May 2015, leaving it with its core holdings of iron ore, petroleum, coal, copper and, to a lesser extent, potash.

The first four have all collapsed in price, with most of the damage coming from both iron ore and petroleum – BHP’s two most important markets. Iron ore is currently fetching around US$45 a tonne, down from US$185 a tonne in 2011 and US$135 a tonne in 2014, while oil is languishing around US$31 a barrel, down from US$110 in mid-2014.

The problem is, both commodities could continue to slide even further. While the miner’s share price, which is sitting near its lowest level in more than a decade, has tempted some analysts, others remain bearish on the future direction of commodity prices and are thus wary of further falls for the shares.

Indeed, some forecasts even suggest BHP’s share price could fall to $10 – or lower – indicating further pain for investors. Although it could become a decent buy for long-term investors at some point in the future, I don’t think that time has come just yet.

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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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