An international financial transactions agency says China's currency, the yuan, has become the fifth-most-widely used currency in global payments.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication said Tuesday the yuan passed the Canadian and Australian dollars in popularity in December.

The agency, known as Swift, said the yuan now trails the U.S. dollar, the euro, the pound and Japan's yen in popularity.

Beijing is gradually easing controls on the yuan and encouraging its use abroad in an effort to reduce costs for its traders and increase Chinese companies' role in the global economy.