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.

Let's start by banking on Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC). The financial services titan bucked the yield-slashing trend of rival bankers like Citigroup (NYSE:C) and Washington Mutual (NYSE:WM) by pumping up its quarterly distributions. Wells Fargo's new rate of $0.34 a share is a 10% improvement. It may seem like an oasis in the banking desert, but shareholders are used to this. Wells Fargo has increased its dividend during each of the past 21 years.

Value Line (NASDAQ:VALU) also made itself more appealing to income investors. The investing research specialist upgraded its disbursements by 33%. Stockholders will now be on the receiving end of $0.40 a share every three months.

The aggressive uptick may come as a surprise to those combing over the company's quarterly results, which accompanied the announcement. Earnings actually dipped by 9% for the quarter, on declining revenue. However, Value Line has earned $2.56 a share over the past year, more than enough to cover the $1.60 a share it will return to investors during fiscal 2009. Its new 4.6% yield is also bound to be attractive in its niche, as the faster-growing Morningstar (NASDAQ:MORN) does not pay out a regular dividend at all.

StanleyWorks (NYSE:SWK) is another hiker. The industrial tools behemoth is ratcheting up its quarterly payout by 3% to $0.32 a share. Stanley Works has boosted its disbursements for 41 consecutive years, which the company claims is the longest streak among industrial companies trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Finally, we have water heater maker A.O. Smith (NYSE:AOS) heating up its own liquidity. The company is bumping up its quarterly dividend from $0.18 a share to $0.19 a share. It may not seem like much, but A.O. Smith has boosted its distributions in six of the past seven 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 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 that will get hiked will be your interest.

Value Line and Morningstar are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. The Fool owns shares of Morningstar. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz pays attention to yield signs. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.