I love to kick off the 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 over the past week.

Let's start with CARBO Ceramics (NYSE:CRR). The maker of ceramic proppants that are used in natural gas and oil wells found a gusher in its pocketbook, so its quarterly dividend is climbing 17% to $0.17 a share. This is the seventh straight year that CARBO has increased its rate.

Then we have Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM). Subprime meltdowns and bursting housing markets aren't bringing Fannie Mae down. The affordable housing enabler's payout is growing by 25% to $0.50 per share this quarter.

Renaissance Learning (NASDAQ:RLRN), an online grade school assessment specialist, bumped its quarterly disbursements 40% higher to $0.07 per share. The company also declared a one-time $0.75 per-share distribution, despite posting a drop in revenue and profitability last week.

Let's wrap things up with Burlington Northern Santa Fe (NYSE:BNI). The railway giant's new rate is $0.32 a share, up 28%. All aboard.

Subscribers to Income Investor get a newsletter that 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 free trial. 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. Fannie Mae is an Income Investor pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.