(QHA) -

Russia raised its gold reserves for a ninth straight month in December as the country continued to add to the fifth-biggest gold holdings in the world, data from the International Monetary Fund showed on Tuesday.

Russia increased its bullion holdings by 20.73 tonnes to 1,208.23 tonnes in December, the IMF data showed. It only lags the United States, Germany, Italy and France in gold reserves.

Russia's gold-buying spree comes amidst a bearish outlook for its economy, which is expected to slide into recession this year on low oil prices and the fallout from sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

Despite the addition to gold holdings, Russia's international reserves have fallen to their lowest since early 2009 as it spends heavily to defend the ruble.

Ratings agency S&P cut Russia's sovereign credit rating to junk status on Monday, bringing it below investment grade for the first time in a decade.