I love to kick off the new trading week by taking a quick peek at companies that have just increased 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 T. Rowe Price (NASDAQ:TROW). The mutual fund giant is boosting its quarterly dividend by 4% to $0.25 a share. It comes at a time when the firm -- like so many other mutual fund families – is suffering from hits to its asset base during last year's decimating market. Analysts see earnings at T. Rowe Price falling to $1.16 a share this year, but that's more than enough to cover the distributions.

Shareholders probably weren't surprised by 3M's (NYSE:MMM) new rate. With last week's modest bump to its quarterly payouts -- up 2% to $0.51 a share -- the diversified technology titan has declared 51 consecutive years of higher dividends.

If 3M's streak sounds impressive, you're going to love Diebold (NYSE:DBD). In announcing its quarterly distribution of $0.26 a share, the company has now increased its yield in each of the past 56 years.

Finally, we have Robert Half (NYSE:RHI) up for the job. The staffing specialist is jacking up its payout by 9%. Investors will now be receiving $0.12 a share every three months.

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

  • Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW) is slashing its quarterly dividend by 64% to $0.15 a share. It's the conglomerate's first reduction in 97 years.
  • Harley owners can't be exactly "Hog wild" over Harley-Davidson's (NYSE:HOG) move to preserve cash with a 70% dividend cut.
  • To Jim Cramer's dismay, Great Plains Energy (NYSE:GXP) is halving its distributions. Yes, even sleepy utilities go the other way, too.

The Income Investor 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.

Great Plains Energy is a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. 3M and Diebold are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. 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.