Welcome to earnings season -- a popular time for many companies to announce dividend raises concurrent with their latest quarterly results.

Over the past month or so, more than a few stocks have gotten a head start on earnings season and declared higher payouts. Last week was no exception. Three raisers are particularly note worthy for the period: Penske Automotive Group (NYSE:PAG), International Paper (NYSE:IP), and Thor Industries (NYSE:THO).

Money pretended to be planted in pots and growing like flowers.

Image source: Getty Images.

Penske Automotive Group

Sprawling auto dealer Penske Automotive Group has declared a 3% increase in its quarterly payout to $0.33 per share.

The move comes less than two months after Penske posted Q2 results that notched several all-time highs in fundamentals. Revenue crept up by 3% on a year-over-year basis to land at just under $5.4 billion, setting a new Q2 record for the company, while net income improved by 14% to $106 million.

PAG Revenue (Quarterly) Chart

PAG Revenue (Quarterly) data by YCharts

Countering weak overall growth in U.S. new car sales during the quarter, Penske managed to lift its revenue in the used-car category. What also helped was a 3% increase in the take for the relatively high-margin service and parts category.

New-car sales are expected to remain sluggish in the near future, so Penske aims to continue focusing on the used variety, which seems to be a good strategy. Meanwhile, the company tends to keep its dividend payouts and share buybacks well under the level of free cash flow, so I believe this new dividend will be more than sustainable.

Penske's new distribution will be paid on Dec. 1 to stockholders of record as of Nov. 10; its payout ratio when mashed against Q2 profitability is a very comfortable 27%. At the current share price, the fattened distribution would yield 2.9%, well above the 1.9% average of dividend-paying stocks on the S&P 500.

International Paper

Like Penske, International Paper is lifting its quarterly dividend by 3%. The pulp and paper manufacturer will hand out nearly $0.48 per share.

IP Dividend Chart

IP Dividend data by YCharts

Increased demand for products in the company's industrial packaging business -- plus the addition of recent acquisitions like Weyerhaeuser's pulp business (bought last year for $2.2 billion) -- is helping improve overall results. In the company's Q2, revenue rose by 9% on a year-over-year basis to nearly $5.8 billion. Adjusted earnings climbed to $270 million, for growth of 8%.

Those trends should remain in force for some time, helping the top and bottom lines. As for the latter, analysts are anticipating good-if-not-spectacular growth of 3% in per-share earnings for this fiscal year, on the back of a more encouraging 10% rise in sales. Meanwhile, both operating and free cash flow have been fairly steady recently, with the latter high enough to cover the dividend and share buybacks.

Considering that, I'd rate this modestly higher new dividend to be safe and sustainable for now. That dividend, the payout ratio for which is 74%, is to be distributed on Dec. 15 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 15. It yields a theoretical 3.3%.

Thor Industries

Veteran recreational vehicle maker Thor Industries has declared that its upcoming quarterly payout will be $0.37 per share, 12% higher than its predecessor.

Relatively inexpensive gas and a still-rising economy are encouraging RV sales. This past August, total shipments in the U.S. rose by a very strong 25% on a year-over-year basis, topping the 15% of full-year 2016.

Brent Crude Oil Spot Price Chart

Brent Crude Oil Spot Price data by YCharts

Thor is a major beneficiary of this trend. Fueled by rising RV sales and the 2016 acquisition of travel accessories maker Jayco, Thor posted record sales and net profit for its Q4. The former rose by almost 50% on a year-over-year basis to $1.9 billion, while the latter advanced 44% to just under $120 million.

With the price of gas expected to slump a bit in the near future, and an economy that looks like it'll motor along nicely, we can anticipate continued growth for Thor.

The company hasn't been an active buyer of its own shares lately, so the $304 million-plus of free cash flow in fiscal year 2017 easily covered the $69 million in dividend payouts for the year. I can't imagine that dynamic changing for any reason, so I'd feel confident about the future of this dividend.

Thor will pay its freshly raised distribution on Nov. 7 to investors of record as of Oct. 24. At the most recent closing share price, the new amount would yield 1.1%.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.