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 that's easing up on its pocketbook 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 in the past week.

We'll start with Carnival (NYSE:CCL). Despite competitive pricing in the Caribbean and a tenuous economy, the leading cruise ship operator still came through with a 27% boost in its quarterly dividend. Investors will now be receiving $0.35 a share. Perhaps it's because of the upbeat outlook overseas: Of the company's revenues, 70% come from ships leaving from North America, but more than half of the 20 new ships that will begin sailing for Carnival over the next four years will come from its European brands.

American Greetings (NYSE:AM) also gave its shareholders a little extra pocket change. The greeting-card specialist upped its quarterly rate by 25% to $0.10 a share, even though it isn't necessarily thriving. Despite its free online greeting cards and the custom photo options it offers through your local drugstore or e-tailers like Shutterfly (NASDAQ:SFLY), American Greetings' results have been nothing to write home about.

The company is doing what it can. It has sold off some retail store locations, and recently divested its candle product lines. This is still clearly a work in progress, but an ambitious share buyback program and last week's payout bump are good ways to keep shareholders close.

Smucker (NYSE:SJM) was a lip-smacking hiker. The company's distributions are being spread 7% thicker now, with a $0.30 per-share quarterly dividend. Beyond the namesake jellies, Smucker is also the supermarket staple behind Jif peanut butter, Pillsbury ready-to-bake goods, and Hungry Jack hotcakes. 

Then we have Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG). Boosting its yield by 13% shouldn't much surprise investors, because the company has now increased its dividends for 51 consecutive years.

Subscribers to the Income Investor newsletter can appreciate companies that send 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 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.