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 Motley Fool's 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:

Citizens Holding (NASDAQ:CIZN). The holding company for Citizens Bank of Philadelphia -- as in Philadelphia, Miss.; not Pennsylvania -- declared a new quarterly dividend of $0.20 a share. The financial services company has been increasing its quarterly rate by $0.01 a share on an annual basis dating back to 2002.Yes, there are still banks out there feeling confident enough to make beefier disbursements.

Ecolab (NYSE:ECL) is also on the move. The food safety specialist will now be sending distributions of $0.14 a share to its investors every three months, an 8% improvement. Ecolab has boosted its yield in each of the past 17 years.

Stryker (NYSE:SYK) is another hiker. The orthopedic products giant is propping up its year-end dividend by 21%, to $0.40 a share. It's not the only way that Stryker is returning money to its stakeholders. The company has repurchased $1 billion of its own stock since this summer.

And finally, we have Enbridge (NYSE:ENB) fueling its yield. The Canadian energy transportation giant is pumping up its quarterly payout by 12%, to $0.37 a share.

It may not sound like much, but consider the companies going the other way last week:

  • Residential community real estate investment trust (REIT) Post Properties (NYSE:PPS) cut its dividend by more than half, to $0.20 a share.
  • Stewart Information Services (NYSE:STC) is cutting even deeper, snipping its former $0.75-a-share annual distributions to just $0.10 a share.
  • The board of Johnson Outdoors (NASDAQ:JOUT) voted to suspend its dividend altogether.

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.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.