Target Corp. (TGT) and Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) rewarded their shareholders on Wednesday by boosting their dividend payments, the latest of several large companies to do so.

Target, the second largest U.S. retailer behind Wal-Mart (WMT), raised its quarterly dividend by 20%, to 30 cents per share from 25 cents.

Caterpillar, one of the worlds largest makers of mining and construction equipment, raised its quarterly dividend to 46 cents per share, up 4.5% from the earlier amount of 44 cents.

At the lowest point of the recent financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, many companies lowered their dividends or eliminated them altogether in an effort to hang on to cash and maintain their capital levels. This was especially true in the hard hit financial sector.

Companies raising their dividends can be viewed as a sign that these companies are optimistic about their futures.

FedEx Corp. (FDX) said earlier this week it will raise its quarterly dividend to 13 cents per share from 12 cents.

According to a statement released by Target, the new dividend is payable Sept. 10 to shareholders of record on Aug. 18. The companys third quarter dividend will be its 176th consecutive paid since October 1967 when the company became publicly held.

Caterpillar's new dividend will be paid Aug. 20 to shareholders of record on July 20.

"This dividend increase is another example of Caterpillar's commitment to increasing value for our stockholders," Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman said in a statement. 

Caterpillar also reaffirmed its outlook for the rest of 2011.

Caterpillar said it has paid a cash dividend every year since the company was formed in 1925 and has paid a dividend every quarter since November 1933.

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