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 with Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY). The pharmaceuticals giant's new quarterly dividend will be $0.49 a share, a 4% improvement over its earlier rate. Upping the dosage has become an annual rite for the company. Eli Lilly has now increased its rate for 42 consecutive years.

Aerospace giant Boeing (NYSE:BA) is also flying higher. The company's new quarterly payout is ascending 5% to $0.42 a share. We may be heading into turbulence as airlines scale back new plane orders and cash-strapped countries curtail their air defense spending, but Boeing is apparently comfortable with returning more money to its shareholders.

Maximus (NYSE:MMS) is another hiker. The government services provider will be sending out $0.12 a share to its investors every three months, a 20% spike from its previous rate. I guess the company is living up to its name.

Finally, we have Heico (NYSE:HEI) on the move. The aerospace and electronics company is giving its semi-annual disbursements a 20% boost to $0.06 a share. Heico's announcement came a day before it posted record quarterly results.

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

  • Office furniture maker Steelcase (NYSE:SCS) cut its dividend by 47%, a troubling sign given how the company is a fair proxy for corporate spending.
  • Retailer Office Max (NYSE:OMX) is suspending its payouts altogether, an even more troubling sign given how it too is a great proxy for corporate spending.
  • E-commerce enabler iMergent (AMEX:IIG) is slashing its dividend by 82%.

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 free 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.