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 Crane (NYSE:CR). The industrial-equipment heavy increased its quarterly distributions by 11% to $0.20 a share. If you figured that a soft economy would dent a company like Crane, you missed the mark. The company's second-quarter report saw revenue trickling higher, with widening margins propelling the bottom line even higher. It is sitting on a record order backlog, too. This may explain why Crane has ramped up its dividend in each of the past four years.

Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP) is another company choo-choo-choosing to return more of its greenbacks to investors. The railroad operator's quarterly dividend is getting a 23% bump to $0.27 a share. Union Pacific has now upped its payout three times since the beginning of last year.

X doesn't just mark the spot of U.S. Steel's (NYSE:X) ticker symbol. It's also a good place to find the welcome treasure of chunkier dividend checks. Shareholders will be on the receiving end of $0.30 a share every three months, a nickel ahead of the company’s earlier rate.

Graham (NYSE:GHM) is another topper. The vacuum systems specialist declared a stock split and propped up its annual dividend by 33% to $0.16 a share (or $0.08 a share after its 2-for-1 split). Graham may not make income investors rich with pocket change; even after the increase, Graham is yielding less than 0.2%. However, it's the thought -- and, more importantly, the confidence -- that counts.

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.

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.