Don't you just love the smell of dividends in the morning? There's nothing so aromatic as a company hiking its distributions. The move doesn't just translate into more quarterly pocket change -- it's also about letting the market know that the company's fundamentals are improving enough to let it dig a little deeper into its cash balance to reward its shareholders.

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

Freeport McMoran (NYSE:FCX) is putting more copper pennies into investors' pockets. The mining specialist's quarterly dividend is going from $0.25 to $0.3125 per share. Don't worry about splitting those pennies. Copper miners know all about it. Yes, you have heard -- and possibly profited -- from the soaring price of gold; it recently topped $500 an ounce. However, some less precious metals have also had strong runs, and Freeport McMoran has benefitted. Copper prices have gone from a low of $0.61 a pound back in late 2001 to as high as $2.14 last month. With production costs not showing the same kind of dramatic spike, it's been gravy days for copper-mining stocks. That's why Freeport McMoran is more than happy to share the wealth with its shareholders.

Following suit, American Financial Group (NYSE:AFG) mines riches from selling annuities and insurance policies. It's been working, apparently; the insurer's dividend is now going from $0.125 to $0.1375 a share. The market may be wary of some of the casualty and property insurance companies that have substantial exposure to the hurricane-ravaged Southeast, but American Financial Group has managed to skirt by more of those disasters than other firms. In fact, last month the company raised its earnings outlook.

UAP Holdings (NASDAQ:UAPH) was another hiker. The company is the leading independent distributor of agricultural staples like seeds, fertilizer, and chemicals. Guess what else the company is growing? That's right. UAP is inching its dividend payout 15% higher, to $0.1875 a share.

Then we have MSC Industrial (NYSE:MSM). The stock, which provides next-day deliveries in the industrial supply market, has been a perpetual favorite of fellow Fool Stephen Simpson, and it's easy to see why. Last week, the company posted healthy numbers, with margins widening to allow earnings per share and free cash flow to grow by 27% and 19%, respectively. Shareholders will have to wait a couple of weeks for a higher dividend, but it will be worth it. The company's quarterly distribution is rising to $0.14 a share, up from last year's dozen cents per stub every three months.

Subscribers to our Motley Fool Income Investor newsletter can appreciate companies that send more and more money to their investors. Analyst Mathew Emmert has often singled out companies that are committed to growing their distributions with market-thumping results.

Want to see what Mathew likes these days? Go ahead and give his newsletter service a shot with a 30-day trial subscription. Who knows? Maybe the next thing to get hiked will be your interest.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz pays attention to yield signs. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.