One of the few bright spots in the U.S. economy lately has been the fact that we’ve been exporting a whole lot of goods abroad. According to the Commerce Department, U.S. exports hit $180.4 billion in September, a record high. Overall, exports have risen 23 percent since the end of the recession in 2009 — a better performance than in any of the previous four downturns. The trade deficit is shrinking. For all the talk about decline, America still produces a lot of stuff that people want. So what can this tell us about the economy?

(Charles Krupa/AP)

The other thing to note is that we probably can’t count on exports alone to lift the United States out of its doldrums. Gennaro Zezza of the Levy Economics Institute draws up a chart, using IMF numbers, showing that America’s trading partners are expected to hum along at a steady — but not accelerating — pace for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, the euro zone, which buys up about 16 percent of U.S. exports, is going to slow down and possibly enter a recession soon. That alone probably won’t be fatal to the U.S. economy, but it’s not good news, either.