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 Parker Hannifin (NYSE:PH). The motion and control technology specialist moved its quarterly distributions 19% higher, to $0.25 a share. The company has now increased its dividend in each of past 52 years, and not by baby steps. Parker Hannifin's payout has nearly doubled just in the past four years.

Avista (NYSE:AVA) is also digging deeper into its pockets to give its investors a nicer view. The energy company's new quarterly rate of $0.18 per share is a 9% improvement, pushing up the utility stock's yield to 3.1%. That's not quite as high as cross-state rival Puget Energy (NYSE:PSD), but every little bit counts.

Martin Marietta Materials (NYSE:MLM) is another hiker. The construction and chemicals titan is ratcheting up its dividend by 16%, to $0.40 a share. The company has increased its disbursements every year since initiating payments in 1994.

Finally, AMCOL International (NYSE:ACO) is on the move. The Illinois-based conglomerate with interests in everything from minerals to oilfield services will now send its stockholders $0.18 a share, a 13% improvement.

Sure, having a stake in energy helps, but even small players in a distressed sector like financial services, like New England Bancshares (NASDAQ:NEBS) and Old Point Financial (NASDAQ:OPOF), have come through with recent dividend hikes.

Subscribers to the Income Investor newsletter can appreciate companies that are sending more and more money to their investors. The newsletter singles out companies committed to growing their distributions, with market-thumping results.

Want to see what we're recommending these days? Give the newsletter service a shot free for 30 days. Who knows? Maybe the next thing to 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.