I love to kick off the new trading week with 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 look at four companies that inched their payouts higher over the past week.

Let's start by toiling the soil with Monsanto (NYSE:MON). The agricultural enabler gave its quarterly dividend a sharp 37% boost on Wednesday, to $0.24 a share. Investors are used to harvesting fatter checks, since the company has propped up its distributions seven times since being spun off in 2002. The actual dividend has quadrupled in that time.

W. P. Carey (NYSE:WPC) is another hiker. The investment firm's new quarterly disbursements will amount to $0.48 a share. It may be a mere 1% uptick, but after seeing financial services giants like Fifth Third Bancorp (NASDAQ:FITB), Wachovia (NYSE:WB), and Ambac (NYSE:ABK) slash their payouts, it's good to see a financial specialist go the other way.

Thankfully, W. P. Carey isn't alone. Yield-chasers can also bank on State Street (NYSE:STT). The company's new $0.24-a-share quarterly dividend is a 4% improvement from what the institutional investing giant was paying out three months ago, and 9% over its dividend from a year ago.

Finally, we have Prospect Capital (NASDAQ:PSEC) pumping up the payouts. The closed-end fund that invests in small companies declared a new dividend of $0.40 a share. It may seem like splitting pennies, but Prospect has increased its distributions in each of the past 15 quarters.

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 free 30-day trial subscription. Who knows? Maybe the next thing that will get hiked will be your interest.