WASHINGTON, June 14 (Reuters) - U.S. business inventories barely rose in April as sales recorded their biggest increase in more than two years, pointing to a slow pace of inventory accumulation that could weigh on economic growth in the second quarter.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday inventories gained 0.1 percent after a downwardly revised 0.3 percent rise in March. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast inventories, a key component of gross domestic product, gaining 0.2 percent in April after a previously reported 0.4 percent increase in March.

Auto inventories ticked up 0.1 percent after surging 2.3percent in March. Retail inventories excluding autos, which go into the calculation of GDP, fell 0.2 percent in April. That was the largest drop in nearly a year and followed a 0.1 percent gain in March.

Inventories last contributed to GDP growth in the first quarter of 2015 and have been a drag in each of the last three quarters. Businesses accumulated record inventory in the first half of 2015, which outstripped demand.

Though the pace of accumulation slowed, inventories remained high in the second half of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016.

Business sales rose 0.9 percent in April, the largest increase since February 2014, after gaining 0.2 percent in March.

At April's sales pace, it would take 1.40 months for businesses to clear shelves. The was the smallest since last December and was down from 1.41 months in March.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

((Lucia.Mutikani@thomsonreuters.com; 1 202 898 8315; Reuters

Messaging: lucia.mutikani.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci; Lucia.Mutikani@thomsonreuters.com; 1 202 898 8315; Reuters; Messaging: lucia.mutikani.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)