Raising a dividend doesn't just raise a company's yield. It also raises expectations. After all, a company must be pretty upbeat about its future to pump up its distributions and send out more of its greenbacks to its shareholders. Readers of the Income Investor newsletter can certainly appreciate that kind of thinking.

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

We can start with Kraft Foods (NYSE:KFT). The company behind Oreo cookies, Jell-O gelatin, and Maxwell House coffee is giving its investors a little more sustenance. Kraft's quarterly dividend is going from $0.23 a share every three months to a full $0.25. The food giant has been a generous income producer, increasing its dividend every year since being partially spun off by Altria (NYSE:MO) five years ago.

Speaking of Altria, the tobacco giant also lit a match under its payout. The company that many still know better as Philip Morris boosted its quarterly dividend from $0.80 to $0.86 a share. The cigarette maker is naturally the subject of tobacco-related lawsuits, which have often kept the stock's valuation in check, given the legal uncertainties. However, shareowners can at least help offset some of that risk by leaning on the stock's high yield, which is now back up over the 4% mark after last week's move.

American Software (NASDAQ:AMSWA) was another hiker. The supply-chain-management software specialist increased its quarterly dividend by a penny, to $0.08 a share. That may not seem like much, but when your stock is trading at $6.24 a stub, it works out to a yield of 5.2%. That compares favorably to the best money market funds out there.

Naturally, owning a company like American Software is a lot riskier than owning a money market fund with a set net asset value. However, sustainable yields can help keep a stock's volatility in check.

Lastly, we have Harris (NYSE:HRS). The communications products maker is pumping its quarterly payout 38% higher. Investors will now be receiving $0.11 a share, up from $0.08, after the company capped off fiscal 2006 in record fashion.

Subscribers to the Income Investor newsletter can appreciate the companies sending more and more money to their investors. Analyst Mathew Emmert has often singled out companies -- including Kraft -- that are committed to growing their distributions with market-thumping results.

Want to see what Mathew's liking these days? Go ahead and give his newsletter service a shot with a 30-day trial subscription. Who knows? Maybe the next thing that will 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. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.The Fool has a disclosure policy.