What's been happening in the financial sector in 2016? Turns out the answer is "nothing."

As a group, financial stocks have been going nowhere this calendar year, as evidenced by the 0.8% price appreciation in the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF  (XLF - Get Report)  year-to-date. For a point of comparison, the rest of the S&P 500 is up 8% this year. In short, it seems that owning financial stocks has been a surefire way to underperform the broad market in dramatic fashion.

But that's not necessarily the case as we head deeper into the second half of the year. After a long stretch of underperformance, a big chunk of financial sector stocks are finally starting to show the possibility of breakout moves.

To take advantage of that about-face, we're turning to the chart for a technical look at five financial sector stocks with breakout potential in August.

In case you're unfamiliar with technical analysis, here's the executive summary: technical analysis is a way for investors to quantify qualitative factors, such as investor psychology, based on a stock's price action and trends. Once the domain of cloistered trading teams on Wall Street, technicals can help top traders make consistently profitable trades and can aid fundamental investors in better planning their stock execution.

Without further ado, here's a rundown of five technical setups that are showing solid upside potential right now.

Goldman Sachs

Leading things off is investment banking giant Goldman Sachs  (GS - Get Report) . Goldman has been a laggard in 2016, shedding almost 10% of its market value since the calendar flipped to January. But the good news for shareholders is that this $70 billion financial firm could be in store for a reversal. After struggling to hold their ground all year long, shares of Goldman are finally looking "bottomy."

Goldman Sachs is currently forming a double bottom pattern, a bullish reversal pattern that looks just like it sounds. The double bottom is formed by a pair of swing lows that find support at approximately the same price level; for Golman Sachs, those bottoms came in February and again in late June. The buy signal comes on a push above $167.50 resistance, the high that separates that pair of lows.

What makes that price level so significant? The $167.50 resistance level is a price where there has been an excess of supply of shares; in other words, it's a spot where sellers have been more eager to step in and take gains than buyers have been to buy. That's what makes a breakout above $167.50 so significant - the move means that buyers are finally strong enough to absorb all of the excess supply above that price level.

Remember to be reactionary with this trade. Goldman doesn't trigger a buy signal until shares are able to cross that $167.50 line in the sand.

HSBC Holdings 

HSBC Holdings (HSBC)  is another huge financial firm that's looking "bottomy" in the long-term. Like Goldman, this international bank has spent most of 2016 correcting, down more than 11% in the first seven months of the year. But a big breakout just within the last three trading sessions points to a sustained reversal in the second half of 2016.

HSBC spent most of 2016 consolidating sideways in a rectangle pattern. The rectangle gets its name because the pattern basically "boxes in" shares between horizontal support and resistance lines. For HSBC, the levels to watch were resistance up at $34 and support at $29.

Rectangles are "if/then patterns" -- put a different way, if HSBC broke out through resistance at $34, then traders had a buy signal. Otherwise, if this stock violated support at $29, then the high-probability trade became a sell. At the end of the day, last week's break through $34 gave traders the buy signal they were hoping for.

Price momentum adds some extra confidence to the reversal setup in HSBC. All year long, this stock's momentum gauge, 14-day RSI, has been making a series of higher lows that point to growing buying pressure. Traders who decide to jump in here should think about parking a protective stop at the 50-day moving average.

Bank of Montreal

Meanwhile, shares of Bank of Montreal  (BMO - Get Report)  have been offering investors strong performance all year long. Since the start of 2016, this $40 billion Canadian bank has rallied 16% on a total returns basis, leading the rest of the sector by a big margin. The good news is that this stock looks primed for a second leg higher this summer.

BMO is currently forming an ascending triangle pattern, a bullish continuation pattern that's formed by horizontal resistance up above shares at $65 and uptrending support to the downside. Basically as BMO bounces in between those two technically significant price levels, this stock has been getting squeezed closer and closer to a breakout through $65 resistance. When that happens, we've got a fresh buy signal in this bank.

For buyers who decide to take the trade once that $65 price ceiling gets taken out, prior support at $62 becomes a logical place to park a protective stop.

Icici Bank 

You don't need to be a trading whiz to figure out what's been going on in shares of Indian banking company Icici Bank (IBN)  lately. Instead, this $21 billion financial firm has been working its way up and to the right ever since the first quarter of this year. Put simply, Icici Bank has been a "buy-the-dips stock" all year long -- and shares are handing investors a buyable dip this week.

Icici Bank has spent most of this year bouncing its way higher in an uptrending channel, a price pattern that's about as simple as they get. The pattern is formed by a pair of parallel trend lines that have identified the high-probability range for shares to trade within -- and with the exception of a minor bear trap in late February that marked this stock's ultimate lows for 2016, they have. From here, it makes sense to buy August's bounce higher.

Actually waiting for that bounce is important for two key reasons: It's the spot where shares have the most room to move up before they hit resistance, and it's the spot where the risk is the least (because shares have the least room to move lower before the channel breaks, and you know you're wrong). Remember, all trend lines do eventually break, but by actually waiting for a bounce to happen first, you're ensuring that Icici Bank can still catch a bid along that line before you put your money on shares.

Bank of America

We're rounding out our list of financial sector breakouts on a big note today. With $160 billion U.S. banking giant Bank of America  (BAC - Get Report) . BofA has been a frustrating stock to own lately. Since January, it's lost about 10% of its market value. Zoom out to this time last year, and those losses expand to 15%. But after a prolonged bear market for Bank of America, this stock is finally looking "bottomy." Here's how to trade it.

Bank of America has spent the last several months forming an inverse head and shoulders pattern, a bullish reversal setup that signals exhaustion among sellers. The pattern is formed by two swing lows that bottom out at approximately the same level (the shoulders), separated by a lower low (the head). The buy signal comes on a move through Bank of America's neckline at $15, a price level that's finally getting tested in a big way this week.

At this point, Bank of America's close just above $15 on Monday is a little too modest to be considered material. But if shares can offer up some continuation into today's session, it'll make sense to take this trade. A confirmed break of BofA's $15 neckline clears the way for prior highs up at $18.

Disclosure: This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.