A recession is typically defined as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction. The U.S. economy ground to a virtual standstill in the fourth quarter of last year, according to many estimates, and the manufacturing sector is already in recession.
Earlier this week, economists at Citi said the risk of a global recession was rising, Morgan Stanley put the probability at 20 percent in a worst case scenario, and French bank Societe Generale said it was 10 percent and rising.
In the latest week, high-yield bond funds posted their second-biggest outflow for a year and emerging market stocks their largest outflow in around five months, said BAML, which also uses data from the EPFR Global fund research house.
Government bond funds attracted a "huge" $5.1 billion in the week to Jan. 20, the biggest inflow in 12 months. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield fell below 2 percent this week for the first time in three months, and investors slashed bets on how far the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this year.
Futures markets are now pricing in just one quarter-point increase in 2016, and not until late in the year.
The flip side of that safe-haven flow in the fixed income universe was a $4.9 billion outflow from high-yield bonds, the second largest in a year, BAML said.
The exodus from equity funds continued in the third week of January at a more modest pace. Investors withdrew a net $3.5 billion from equity funds in the week to Jan. 20, BAML said, the third consecutive outflow.