I love to kick off the new trading week by taking a quick peek at companies that have just hiked their dividends. It's not just about the money. A company easing up on its purse strings probably has improving fundamentals to back up that generosity.

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'll start with J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP). The department-store chain checked in with an 11% payout boost. That may not seem like much, but it follows a 44% uptick a year ago. Shareowners will now be receiving $0.20 a share every three months.

Movado (NYSE:MOV) will also make time fly a little easier. The watchmaker clocked in with a 33% spike in its quarterly dividend rate, to $0.08 a share. The company also expects earnings to dip in its latest fiscal year, but don't read too much into that. Movado's tax rate will grow fivefold here in fiscal 2008. On a pre-tax basis, profits will keep inching higher.

Atlantic Coast Federal (NASDAQ:ACFC) is another hiker. The company behind the Atlantic Coast Bank chain boosted its quarterly dividend by a penny, to $0.13 a share. Unimpressed? Well, did I mention that Atlantic Coast has boosted its dividend eight times now since early 2005? Now that's impressive.

And you know what goes great with a Hardee's Thickburger? How about a thicker dividend? Parent company CKE Restaurants (NYSE:CKR) declared a 50% improvement to its distribution policy. Quarterly dividend checks will now be cut for $0.06 per share. Yes, if you own a round lot of 100 shares, you'll get enough to buy that fancy Six Dollar Burger at CKE's Carl's Jr. chain.

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

Want to see what is 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.