Yesterday, investors hustled to trade in American Greetings' (NYSE:AM) shares, with their efforts pulling the stock up nearly 4% on heavy volume following the company's announcement of fiscal Q2 (ended Aug. 31) financial results and the initiation of a quarterly cash dividend.

The picture at American Greetings, entrenched at No. 2 in the "I Was Just Thinking of You, Schmoopy" department (Hallmark, which isn't publicly traded, has it cold based on both revenues and retail presence), continues to improve. Following a big-time retirement of debt completed earlier this year, its financial picture is substantially superior to where it was a year ago.

So are its operations. American Greetings managed net income (from continuing operations) of nearly $6 million, up from last year's $10.6 million, even as revenue came in about flat at $392 million. Six-month numbers are also improved. The company's balance sheet, meanwhile, looks far better -- more cash, less debt, and lower inventory -- than it did a year ago.

This doesn't change the fact that things are tough for American Greetings. Hallmark is the larger competitor; free e-cards are all the rage, cutting into sales and store traffic; and the retail business continues to challenge the company. But its improved financial position helps the company throw off more cash flow, while the institution of a dividend is a shareholder-friendly use of that cash.

In short, it appears management is succeeding at finding ways to keep investors interested -- as the company's rapid rise in market value over the last six months illustrates.

Fool contributor Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own shares of American Greetings.