Why BHP Billiton PLC Stock Rallied 11.5% in the First Half of 2018

What happened

BHP Billiton (NYSE: BBL) (NYSE: BHP) enjoyed a strong first half of the year, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence, as shares rose 11.5%. Those gains came even though the prices of some of the commodities it produces dipped.

So what

Commodity prices have been very volatile in 2018. Crude oil continued its torrid rally, rising almost 19% for the first half of the year to nearly $80 a barrel. Iron ore and copper, on the other hand, have gone in the opposite direction, with both falling about 10% for the year on global trade war fears. Those weaker metal prices will impact BHP's earnings in the near term since iron ore contributed 38% of its underlying profitability in the second half of last year while copper chipped in with 28%. However, the uptick in oil, which provided 20% of BHP's profits, will help offset some of this impact.

In addition to benefiting from higher oil prices, BHP also pleased investors with some strategic updates. In May, the company outlined six key strategies that it intends on implementing, which it believes can grow the value of the company by 40%. These include reducing costs 15%, moving forward with five high-return projects, and exiting its U.S. shale business. BHP has already started making progress on many of these initiatives, including receiving several multibillion-dollar offers from big oil giants for its shale assets. As a result, investors remain optimistic about what lies ahead as the company continues to implement this value-enhancing strategy.

Now what

While BHP stock is already off to a good start in 2018, several factors could give it the fuel to continue rising. For starters, oil remains red-hot and could have more upside ahead. Meanwhile, the company is just starting to make progress on its value-creation plan, which could boost shares further as it achieves some of the goals. Finally, while copper and iron ore prices were headwinds in the first half, they could reverse course later this year if trade war fears begin to subside.

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Matthew DiLallo owns shares of BHP Billiton. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.