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

Readers of the Motley Fool 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 Granite Construction (NYSE:GVA). The construction materials producer and heavy civil contractor announced a 30% increase in its payout. Shareholders will now receive $0.13 a share every three months. But isn't construction in a funk with the real estate sector's malaise? It is. Granite posted higher quarterly profits last week, but did so on a 10% dip in revenue. However, Granite feels that its long-term prospects warrant the pumped-up yield. In short, the construction industry may be struggling, but one should never take it for Granite.

Danaos (NYSE:DAC) also let its yield sail higher. The shipping company raised its quarterly dividend by 6% to $0.465 per share. The move makes sense. Danaos has been growing its fleet of container ships. We may live in a digital age, but physical goods still have to get around.

MetLife (NYSE:MET) is another hiker. The insurance products giant is boosting its annual dividend to $0.74 a share. That's a 25% increase. Say what you want about having Snoopy as its animated mascot, this kind of pocket change is certainly not peanuts.

Finally we have Penske (NYSE:PAG) putting the pedal to the metal. The automotive retailer is accelerating its quarterly dividend by 29%, to $0.09 a share. Penske posted healthy growth in the third quarter, with comps surging 8.5%.

Despite nervous lenders and iffy consumers who may shy away from big-ticket items, showroom operators like AutoNation (NYSE:AN), Group 1 (NYSE:GPI), and especially CarMax (NYSE:KMX) seem to do just fine. If appetites falter for new cars, they're there with used cars to sell.

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? Take a 30-day trial subscription. Who knows? Maybe the next thing that will get increased will be your interest.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.