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 with Target (NYSE:TGT). The discount department store chain's new quarterly dividend will be $0.16 a share, ahead of the $0.14 a share it was paying earlier this year.

Discounters like Target, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), and Big Lots (NYSE:BIG) may not be entirely immune from an economic slowdown, but they are holding up better than their traditional full-priced peers as consumers try to stretch their pennies.

Casey's General Stores (NASDAQ:CASY) is another thrift-minded retailer passing on more of its profits to its shareholders. The company upped the ante during last week's annual shareholder meeting, with investors now receiving $0.075 a share every three months. That is a 15% improvement over its most recent distributions.

C.R. Bard (NYSE:BCR) is another hiker. The medical equipment maker's new quarterly payout is $0.16 a share. It may be just a penny per share higher than its old rate, but Bard shareholders know that good things come in small hikes. Bard has increased its dividend in each of the past 37 years.

Finally, we have Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) inching higher. The maker of big gear that makes mining and industrial construction easier is doing even more heavy lifting for its shareowners. The company's quarterly disbursements are climbing by 17% to $0.42 a share. The company's dividend has tripled over the past 10 years. Those who crave consistency will note that Caterpillar has now boosted its dividend for 15 consecutive years.

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 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 that will get hiked will be your interest.