I love to kick off the new trading week by taking a quick peek at companies that have just hiked their dividends -- and not just because of the money. A company that is 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.

We’ll start with Gap (NYSE:GPS). The apparel retailer behind Old Navy, Banana Republic, and its namesake denim and khaki havens may be looking to shrink the size of its stores, but it's expanding the money it returns to its shareholders. Gap's quarterly dividend is inching 6% higher to $0.085 a share.

Higher payouts? You're soaking in it, Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL) investors. The consumer-products conglomerate behind supermarket staples like Irish Spring soap and Ajax cleaners is flashing that Colgate smile. Shareowners will now receive $0.40 a share every three months -- an 11% improvement over last year's rate.

Even if consumer nondurable companies like Colgate-Palmolive are considered recession-resistant, since they provide basic repeat-purchase necessities, it's still comforting to see the company upbeat enough about its future to free up more of its greenbacks.

Cohen & Steers (NYSE:CNS) is another hiker. Its new quarterly dividend will climb 10% to $0.22 a share. The move may be surprising, since Cohen & Steers specializes in real estate-backed mutual funds. With developers like Toll (NYSE:TOL) and Lennar (NYSE:LEN) in retreat and REITs getting roughed up over asset quality, why is Cohen & Steers being so generous?

Well, Cohen & Steers posted higher quarterly profits a month earlier, despite a 14% sequential dip in assets under management. If snapping up the company at 14 times trailing earnings doesn't win over value investors, maybe its 3.4% yield will prove magnetic to income investors.

Finally, we have Public Storage (NYSE:PSA) unlocking the goods. The self-storage specialist is propping up its quarterly distributions by 10% to $0.55 a share. This is one niche to keep an eye on, as the wave of foreclosures sends homeowners downgrading to smaller digs, with self-storage facilities likely to house stuff that just doesn't fit inside the new homesteads.

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 to get hiked will be your interest.