Some investors trade in and out of stocks without paying attention to dividends. Sure, the yields usually aren't much, but if a company is committed to cutting loose some of its greenery every three months, that's a good way of gauging that company's prospects. If a company is raising its dividend rate, it's a good sign the company is confident about growing. Readers of the Income Investor newsletter can certainly appreciate that kind of thinking.

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

We can start with Value Line (NASDAQ:VALU). The company behind the popular Value Line Investment Survey, which tracks 1,700 stocks, probably knows a thing or two about what it takes to attract investors. That may help explain its move to grow its quarterly dividend by 20% to $0.30 per share.

Matthews International (NASDAQ:MATW) was another hiker. It specializes in funeral-home products such as caskets, cremation equipment, and bronze memorials. It may not seem like the most -- ahem -- lively of industries, but you've got to admit that it's an all-weather sector, unless we one day unlock the secret to immortality.

The company has been breathing new life into its quarterly payouts every year since it went public in 1994. A dozen hikes later, the latest spike has the company inching 10% higher to $0.055 a share.

Then we have Charles Schwab (NASDAQ:SCHW), with one of the more generous upticks. Its quarterly dividend per share may be going up by just two pennies to a full nickel, but that still represents a 67% upgrade. The Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation is coming off a better-than-expected third quarter. The leading discount broker certainly has the flexibility to cover the new rate. The $0.21 per share it earned would, in theory, be enough to cover a full year of dividends at the new rate.

Finally, we have Stepan (NYSE:SCL). Upping its $0.20-per-share quarterly payout to $0.205 is just a fractional move, but it keeps an enviable streak going for the chemicals producer. The company certainly has some practice here. It has raised its dividend for 39 consecutive years.

Subscribers to the Income Investor newsletter service can appreciate the companies that send more and more money to their investors. The service singles out companies that are committed to growing their distributions with market-thumping results.

Want to see what's being recommended these days? Go ahead and give the 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 in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.