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.

We'll start with Pitney Bowes (NYSE:PBI). The metered-mail specialist is boosting its quarterly dividend by 3% to $0.36 a share. It may not seem like much, but Pitney Bowes has bumped its distributions higher in each of the past 27 years.

Agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE:ADM) is also harvesting a more bountiful yield. The company is growing its quarterly disbursements by 8% to $0.14 a share.

Ross Stores (NASDAQ:ROST) is another hiker. The apparel discounter's new quarterly dividend of $0.11 a share is a 16% improvement. The retailer announced the move just as it raised its guidance. Most retailers are smarting in this soft economy, but a chain like Ross that knows how to dress people up on the cheap is positioned perfectly.

Finally, we have Avon Products (NYSE:AVP) calling. The leading direct seller of cosmetics can take it easy on the blush. Avon's propping up its quarterly rate by 5% to $0.21 a share.

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

  • Struggling retailer Macy's (NYSE:M) is slashing its quarterly dividend by 62% to $0.05 a share.
  • Banking casualties Union Bankshares (NASDAQ:UBSH) and First Financial Holdings (NASDAQ:FFCH) are also whacking away at their once-generous payouts.  

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 to get hiked will be your interest.

Pitney Bowes is a Motley Fool Income Investor 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.