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Traders betting on Deere, these other stocks ahead of earnings next week

  • Heavy options activity in Deere December call options, according to trader Jon Najarian.
  • Options traders are also betting that Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Palo Alto Networks move higher.
  • Najarian scored winning trades on Cisco, GM, and Bed Bath and Beyond this week.
Soft red winter wheat is harvested with a John Deere & Co. combine harvester in aerial photograph taken over Kirkland, Illinois.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Soft red winter wheat is harvested with a John Deere & Co. combine harvester in aerial photograph taken over Kirkland, Illinois.

Traders are using options to make big bets on Deere, Palo Alto Networks, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise ahead of earnings next week.

Deere reports on Wednesday before the bell, and while traders are bullish on the stock ahead of the report, they're not anticipating a monster gain.

Last month traders bought more than 10,000 calls at the December 120 strike price, according to Jon Najarian, Najarian Family Office co-founder and "Halftime Report" contributor. But they also sold more than 13,000 calls at the December 140 strike price, and more than 4,000 contracts at the 145 strike.

So while the options activity indicates a bullish view, the market doesn't expect the stock to far surpass $145. All of these calls expire at the end of December.

This could be part of a trading strategy to offset the cost of buying the more expensive in-the-money calls to execute a "call spread" – selling calls with a strike price above the stock's intrinsic value while simultaneously buying the in-the-money calls.

But this also limits the potential upside. In this case, the trader could have to hand over Deere at $140 or $145 if the stock price were to exceed these levels—should the buyer of the 140 or 145 calls exercise their right to purchase the stock. So the potential gains are capped.

Since an in-the-money call is essentially owning the stock, the stock option will move in tandem with the stock's performance. In this instance, the calls that were bought for $9.90 in mid-October were trading at $15.43 as of Thursday. In that same time frame, shares of Deere are up 5.24%.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Source: Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Najarian spotted other interesting options activity in Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which reports earnings on Tuesday after the bell. This month traders bought more than seven thousand January 12 calls that expire in 2018, and more than fourteen thousand January 17 calls that expire in 2019. As of Thursday's close the stock was trading at $13.27.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has risen 58.6 percent since it was spun out of HP Inc. on November 1, 2015.

Traders are also predicting that Palo Alto Networks is poised to move higher.

This week traders have bought more than 4,000 January 160 calls, which is 15 percent above where the stock was trading at as of Thursday's close, according to Pete Najarian, Investitute co-founder and CNBC contributor.

The cybersecurity company reports earnings on Monday after the bell, and according to FactSet estimates, analysts are expecting earnings per share of 68 cents on $488.8 million in revenue. These calls, however, don't expire until January 19, so the traders could be anticipating positive quarterly guidance or increasingly favorable market conditions into the New Year.

The Najarians use changes in options volume trading to spot buying opportunities. That worked well this week on Cisco, GM, and Bed Bath and Beyond.

Last week, bulls piled into Cisco, adding more than 14,000 calls at the November 34.50 strike price. Pete Najarian got into the trade, and profited when shares popped after the company beat earnings estimates and gave an upbeat forecast. As of Thursday's close, the stock is up 5.3 percent since last Friday.

Last Friday, Pete Najarian also bought GM calls at the February 48 strike price. As of Thursday's close, the stock has gained 3.5 percent.

Retail has been a tricky sector to invest in, but Jon Najarian bought Bed Bath and Beyond calls on Tuesday when he noticed lots of options activity in the name. Traders bought more than thirteen thousand calls at the December 20 strike price, and the stock has gained 4% through Thursday's close.

-CNBC's Vincent Caruso contributed to this article.