"There is room for [prices in] the crude market to soften a bit more", says John Woods of JJ Woods Associates, adding that inventories could rise further as refineries head toward maintenance season after the summer driving season.
"Gasoline demand has been one of the main bullish stories in the oil market and if that demand is slipping off a little bit, maybe we're seeing reluctance to higher prices", said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.
US crude stockpiles were expected to have dropped 3.3 million barrels last week. However, lingering concerns over the sanctions on Iran and falling US inventories should be supportive over the near-term. Crude oil will be exempt.
However, July imports were still the third-lowest so far this year.
Oil held a gain near $69 a barrel as U.S. crude inventories are seen declining.
"We view that it is very unlikely that the USA administration will be successful in reducing Iranian exports to zero", analysts at MUFG said in a note on Wednesday.
Experts believe that the United States is pushing the World towards the "Third World War" over global policies, especially Iran.
Markets also anticipated an announcement from Washington later on Monday on renewed USA sanctions against major oil exporter Iran.
Oil prices steadied on Wednesday despite relatively weak Chinese import data as the market was still supported by falling U.S. crude inventories and the introduction of sanctions against Iran.
As recently as June, China was the top foreign buyer of United States crude, importing a record 15 million barrels that month.
Global oil markets reacted with a price surge following the re-introduction of the first tranche of U.S. sanctions on Iran that came into force on Tuesday. It also gives American producers greater inroads to the fastest-growing oil consumer, a market that's now dominated by Middle-Eastern suppliers. "If worst comes to worst and 1.5-2 million bpd of Iranian disappears from the market. calculations will go out of the window and oil bears will have to brace themselves for a very rough ride", PVM Oil Associates analyst Tamas Varga said.
U.S. refined products exports climbed 174,000 b/d to 5.2 million b/d, although 351,000 b/d of that was residual fuel exports.
USA economic sanctions against Iran took effect this week.
Gasoline stocks rose by 2.9 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.7 million barrel drop.
The Energy Information Administration is scheduled to release the data on USA crude stockpiles, at 10:30 AM ET on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia is producing around 10.4 million bpd and could in theory raise output to above 12 million bpd.