China increased its central bank gold reserves in March by the smallest amount since the country started releasing the data on a monthly basis last year.

The People’s Bank of China expanded holdings by 0.5 percent to 57.79 million ounces (about 1,797.5 metric tons) from 57.50 million ounces a month earlier, according to its website. Global prices fell 0.5 percent in March after climbing 17 percent in the first two months of the year.

The country’s gold assets have jumped 8.4 percent, or an average of about 500,000 ounces (15.6 tons) a month, since the PBOC announced it boosted holdings by 57 percent through the end of June from 2009.

Russia and Kazakhstan are also increasing their hoard. While China has the fifth-biggest tonnage by country, its holdings make up only 2.2 percent of total reserves, compared with 75 percent in the U.S. and 69 percent in Germany, according to data from the World Gold Council. Demand for bullion from central banks and investors may be structurally higher as a result of negative interest rate policies, the council said in a March 31 report.

The metal is among the best performing commodities this year as concerns over the outlook for global growth reduced bets for further increases in borrowing costs by the Federal Reserve. Lower rates are a boon for gold, which becomes more competitive against interest-bearing assets.