I love to kick off the new trading week by taking a quick peek at companies that have just hiked their dividends. I'm not just interested in the money. A company that's opening its wallet wider 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 Kraft (NYSE:KFT). The food giant is bringing more to the table, upping its quarterly dividend by 7% to $0.29 a share.

Choice Hotels (NYSE:CHH) is also checking in with chunkier disbursements. The company behind value-minded hotel chains like Comfort Inn, Econo Lodge, and Clarion will now be sending shareowners $0.185 a share, a 9% improvement.

The lodging industry hasn't felt the same real estate pinch you're seeing in the residential market. Choice has now boosted its payouts in five consecutive years.

Tyco (NYSE:TYC) is another hiker. The conglomerate that used to be called a baby General Electric (NYSE:GE) -- back when that was a compliment -- is propping up its quarterly distributions by 33% to $0.20 a share. Tyco doesn't mess around. Its latest hike follows a 36% rate increase last September.

Finally, we have Sovran Self Storage (NYSE:SSS). The self-storage REIT with 380 facilities is inching its quarterly dividend a penny higher, to $0.64 a share. Sovran has come through with higher rates in each of the past 13 years.

The market downturn may actually be aiding self-storage specialists like Sovran, Public Storage (NYSE:PSA), and Extra Space (NYSE:EXR), as home foreclosures force consumers into smaller homes with a lot of extra stuff to store. Public Storage already increased its yield earlier this year.

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.

Kraft Foods is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Tyco is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. 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.