Up to Wednesday's announcement BHP and its peers have been stymied by the focus of investors and analysts on the potential for expensive new investments to boost commodity supply beyond what Asia's emerging giants will demand.

It may take some time yet, but BHP ' s decision to defer capex decisions means the debate will eventually shift to whether there will be enough supply to meet even the current consensus view of slower demand growth in China and India.

That possible shift in direction of the debate over the resources boom will ultimately benefit commodity producers, and while it may be a stretch to say this is a deliberate tactic on BHP ' s part, any talk of under - supply in the next few years will do wonders for the share prices of those who already have the assets, or can expand fairly rapidly.

The predictable reaction to the decision by the world ' s largest miner to shelve some projects, including the $۲۰ billion expansion of the Olympic Dam copper, gold and uranium facility, has been to praise the company ' s belated sense of capital discipline.

The other reaction has been to cry that the commodity boom is over, with Australia ' s Resources Minister Martin Ferguson among the doomsayers, something that will no doubt alarm his Labor Party colleagues given they ' ve handed out masses of welfare, betting on cash from mining and energy to pay for it.

However, it ' s probable that BHP Chief Executive Marius Kloppers was aiming to buy himself time and perhaps a more positive sentiment toward the share price.

Since the commodity boom got underway with a vengeance at the start of ۲۰۰۶, BHP has gained about ۴۶ percent in Sydney, lagging the ۵۷ percent rise in the S&P GSCI Index of commodities.

BHP lost ۳.۶ percent from the start of ۲۰۱۲ to Wednesday ' s close as investors and analysts fretted over the company ' s expansion plans that totaled $۸۰ billion and included projects to boost iron ore output in Western Australia state and potash in Canada.

With the slide in commodity prices in the first half of ۲۰۱۲ and the resulting ۳۵ percent drop in BHP ' s second - half profit, it became increasingly clear that something would have to give.

However, it ' s important to note that the expansion plans for Olympic Dam weren ' t scrapped, and there is a possibility that they will be revived if it can be shown that the massive investment will be justified by increased demand.

I doubt very much that Kloppers or his counterparts at Rio Tinto, Anglo American and Xstrata believe Asia ' s commodity story is over.

Rather, it ' s more likely their view is that commodity demand growth is experiencing a cyclical slowdown and is likely to accelerate again, perhaps by early next year.

However, the mining executives will also know that their long - term views don ' t hold much water when investors are so focused on short - term returns, so pandering to the vagaries of the equity market becomes a necessity.

If you look at iron ore and coking coal, two of BHP ' s major products, it ' s probable that the short - term picture is entirely at odds with the longer - term outlook.

China ' s daily steel output was ۱.۹۷ million tonnes in the first ۱۰ days of August, slightly up from the last week in July.

At the current level just below ۲ million tonnes a day, the ۲۰۱۲ output should be in the region of ۷۰۰ million tonnes, or roughly ۵۴۰ kilograms per capita.

Given the need to urbanize hundreds of millions of people in China in the coming years, it ' s quite likely that steel demand per capita could rise to closer to ۸۰۰ kilograms, meaning steel output would have to be closer to ۱ million tonnes a year.

Such an increase means plans to expand iron ore and coking coal output would be more than justified, but it also seems likely that matters will be placed on hold until there is renewed confidence that such demand is likely.

Of course, this raises the possibility of supply shortages around 2015, but again this isn't something that should worry BHP's Kloppers, as he will then have the satisfaction of making buckets of cash on his existing output and pointedly telling the equity analysts they were wrong all along.