Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) beat earnings today, helping lift the KBW Bank Index (INDEX: ^BKX), the Dow (INDEX: ^DJI), and the rest of the market.

The previous earnings reports from Citigroup and JPMorgan over the past week were not well-received, but today Goldman is up more than 6% as I write this.

Citi and JPMorgan are also up sharply today, but so are Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), which report tomorrow.

But let's be clear on the news. Goldman's $1.84 EPS beat earnings estimates that had been lowered by analysts in the run-up to reporting (all the way down to $1.24). And the numbers versus last year's fourth quarter are anemic: Net revenue dropped 30% and earnings dropped 58%.

Goldman's compensation was also down. Over the whole year, its compensation and benefits pool dropped from $15.4 billion to $12.2 billion. Some of this was due to reducing its workforce by 7%, but there was also a drop in pay per employee. The pool equates to $367,000 per employee this year versus $431,000 last year.

So what we see is an earnings beat with lowered expectations. On Wall Street, where you eat what you kill, there's been less big game to share. We'll see tomorrow whether the expectations for Bank of America and Morgan Stanley were lowered enough to please the market.

In the meantime, if you're looking for a much less complex bank that has some of the best operational numbers I've ever seen, check out our brand new free report: "The Stocks Only the Smartest Investors Are Buying." I invite you to take a free copy to find out the name of the small bank I believe Warren Buffett would be interested in if he could still invest in small banks.