Something 'massive' is happening in the economy: Pal

China's market turmoil and an extended downturn in oil wreaked havoc on stocks this week, with the S&P 500 Index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average off to their worst start of a year.

The sell-off has some questioning the strength of the U.S. economy, but few think the world's largest growth center is at risk for a contraction. However, one widely regarded investor says there's little debate: the U.S. is likely already in a recession—and he claims to have hard numbers to bolster his case.

Looking at International Monetary Fund data, "the year-over-year change in global exports is at the second lowest level since 1958," Raoul Pal, Publisher of the Global Macro Investor told CNBC's"Fast Money"this week.

Basically, it means economies around the world are shipping their goods at near historically low levels. "Something massive is going on in the global economy and people are missing it," Pal added.

The steep decline in 2015 exports is second only to 2009, when the global recession led to a 37 percent drop in export growth.

Read MoreUS close to recession, world already in one: Pro

There are two main contributing factors to this recession, Pal told CNBC: A resurgent U.S. dollar and China's slowdown. The greenback's strength has helped keep a lid on energy prices, but it's had undeniable spillover effects, the investor said.

"It started unraveling in oil and all commodities, that impacted exports. Everyone had dollar debts and no one had money," Pal added.

The investor correctly predictedthe dollar's surge back in November 2014 on CNBC's "Fast Money". Since that call, the dollar has risen 15 percent—an ascent that Pal believes will only continue due to the shortage of dollars globally.

"I don't think I've ever been this right in my career," Pal said.

The dollar's sustained strength has called into question moves by the Federal Reserve and shaken commodity markets. For the time being, Pal believes the greenback's got nowhere else to go but up –and global markets are going to pay for it.

"The markets are following a pattern. Growth has been revised down and it looks like the markets will have to" compensate for the adjustment, Pal said.

"China is certainly a big mess and it's likely to get worse," he said. "Even whether they devalue their currency sharply or slowly, there's still a big mess to work out with all of the debts in the system. I think it's a problem."

Despite the doom and gloom Pal predicted, he suggested one buying opportunity.

"Right now I think one of the best bets in the world is to own the TLT or bonds," Pal said, speaking of the iShares bond exchange traded fund and government debt. "No one is long of bonds and I think the most likely outcome is that the bond market has a huge rally, based on the risk of recession and deflation."