'Can we throw things?' Spectators torn between fascination and revulsion as Trump strides into Davos
President Donald Trump (AFP/File / SAUL LOEB)

A fawning female admirer grabbed Donald Trump's autograph while others longed to pelt him with fruit as the US president Thursday strode enthusiastically into the Davos economic forum.

Trump smiled and waved as hundreds of onlookers at the elite gathering lined the lobby and a high staircase of the conference venue in the Swiss resort to get a glimpse of him.

Some muttered disapprovingly about him even as they got out their phones to take pictures, torn between fascination and revulsion at the man who has vowed to tear down their globalist world.

"Can we throw things?" asked one bystander, a middle-aged American woman in a purple jacket, peering from the staircase at the crowds awaiting Trump's arrival.

"I've an apple in my bag," said another woman.

"No," replied the first, walking away. "He doesn't even merit that."

- God's gift? -

On the front line of the welcoming committee, however, was one devoted fan.

Deborah O'Hara Rusckowski, 58, held out a book for him to sign called "God and Donald Trump", a study on whether supernatural intervention brought the US leader to power.

"Yes, president," shouted Rusckowski, an American who serves as a permanent observer to the United Nations for the conservative Catholic movement the Order of Malta, before Trump approached and signed her book.

"He was very, very hospitable and personal. He just said 'Yes, I'll sign that for you'," she told AFP afterwards.

"I like him. I like what he stands for. I think we needed it after eight years of what we had (before Trump) that did nothing but hurt us."

- Dinner with Trump -

Swiss protesters hung a giant banner on a nearby mountain reading "Trump not welcome".

In a statement, the progressive campaign group that hung the banner, Campax, said it hoped the US leader would see it as he flew by in his helicopter.

It said 17,000 people had signed a petition against Trump's visit to Switzerland, protesting what it said were his racist and sexist views and "misanthropic" policies.

At the summit, delegates were waiting nervously to hear what Trump will say during his address to the forum on Friday.

He was scheduled to dine with European company executives on Thursday evening in the posh Swiss ski resort.

But some business leaders "are leaving" already, a top European diplomat who asked not to be named told AFP.

"So many we speak to say they don't want to be here for the speech."

By attending the annual Davos meeting, Trump came face to face with the liberal economic elites whom he insulted during his election campaign.

But on arrival he was all smiles.

"It's very exciting to be here, we're very happy to be here. The United States is doing very well," he told the crowd, before disappearing upstairs for talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May and others.

"This will be a very exciting two days."