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 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 by tilling the soil with Deere (NYSE:DE). The agricultural-equipment giant is harvesting a new quarterly dividend of $0.28 a share, 12% better than its most recent rate. Deere investors are probably used to this, since the company has hiked its distributions six times since 2004. There must be something special about working the fields, because Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) is actually working on a 14-year streak of higher dividends.

Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) is also building a better yield. The home improvement superstore chain is hammering home a 6% increase to its disbursements. Investors will now be getting $0.085 a share every three months.

"Do it yourself" chains like Lowe's and Home Depot (NYSE:HD) are clearly struggling in this weak housing market. Homeowners are still coming in to spruce up their digs, but contractors are having a hard time finding new work. However, Lowe's is still comfortable enough with its finances to return a little more money to its shareowners.

Flowers Foods (NYSE:FLO) is another hiker. The baked-goods specialist behind the Nature's Own, Cobblestone Mill, and Sunbeam bread lines makes dough rise for a living. Shareholders can now play at home, with a 20% improvement in their quarterly checks to $0.15 a share.

Tidewater (NYSE:TDW) is also getting in on the wave of fatter yields. The operator of offshore drilling vessels hadn't inched its payout higher since 1996, but that changed on Wednesday. Tidewater certainly wants to make up for lost time, giving its quarterly dividend a 67% boost to $0.25 a share.  

Subscribers to the Income Investor newsletter like to see 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 they're recommending 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.