Dividends are more than just quarterly reminders that your stock investments care about you. In fact, those payouts are about even more than just the personal enrichment through pocket change. When a company raises its yield, it's a good indication that things are improving fundamentally for that company. Why would it open up the purse strings even wider if that were not the case? So follow the hikers. See where they take you as an investor.

Let's take a closer look at four of the companies that inched their payouts higher this past week.

US Bancorp (NYSE:USB) is the first company to fatten its payouts. The parent company of US Bank is setting its quarterly dividend at $0.33 a share, three cents higher than what it was distributing in 2005. Financial institutions tend to be generous distributors. US Bancorp, for instance, aims to return at least 80% of its earnings back to shareholders either through dividends or share buybacks. Because banks don't need to pour truckloads of money into research and development, income investors will often find plenty of high-yielding financial-services companies.

Following suit, PG&E (NYSE:PCG) will also be going from $0.30 to $0.33 a share with its quarterly disbursements. The California utility is no stranger to dividends -- it consistently dispenses them to its common stockholders as well as the owners of the eight different types of preferred shares that the company has out in the market.

Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) was another hiker. Investors who used to receive $0.38 a share every three months will now be treated to a rounder $0.40-per-share sum. That pumps up the drugmaker's yield to 2.8%. That may sound generous, but do check out some of the hefty payouts taking place at rival pharmaceutical titans such as Inside Value recommendation Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), Income Investor pick Merck (NYSE:MRK), and Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY):