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 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 Pall (NYSE:PLL). The filtration specialist is bumping up its annual dividend by 12% to $0.145 a share. The company has now come through with higher rates in each of the past five years.

Industrial-parts supplier Fastenal (NASDAQ:FAST) is also sending a little more money to its shareowners. The company's new semiannual dividend is $0.35 a share, a healthy improvement over last year's $0.27-a-share rate.

Technically speaking, Fastenal did reward investors with a one-time distribution of an additional $0.27 a share by the end of last year, despite feeling the pinch of the economic slowdown in December. In other words, the company's semiannual rate is slightly higher, but it remains to be seen if shareholders will walk away with more income in 2009 than they did in 2008.

Polaris Industries (NYSE:PII) is another hiker. The maker of ATVs, snowmobiles, and motorcycles is revving its quarterly rate 3% higher to $0.39 a share. Polaris has now increased its yield for 14 consecutive years, though cynics out there will cringe that the payout boost came on the same day that Polaris announced the layoffs of 460 employees.

Finally, we have Hudson City Bancorp (NASDAQ:HCBK) bucking the trend of fading bankers. The company jacked up its quarterly dividend by 56% to $0.14 a share. Not every bank is in trouble these days, with Hudson City standing out as one of the few players growing its profitability and staying clear of the TARP bailout money.

Some of these moves may not sound like much, but consider the companies going the other way last week:

  • Citigroup (NYSE:C) became the latest banking giant to slash its payout to a token $0.01 a share.
  • Movie theater titan Regal Entertainment (NYSE:RGC) reeled in its yield with a 40% markdown.
  • Hard-drive maker Seagate (NASDAQ:STX) cut its dividend by 75% to $0.03 a share.

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.