President Bush, speaking on Wall Street Wednesday, visited the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, toured the trading posts and shook hands with traders in early afternoon.
The rare visit by a sitting president, which was shown live on CNBC, brought trading to a near standstill on the floor.
"He's only the second sitting President to visit the floor during trading hours, so it became the absolute focus of attention," Art Cashin, UBS director of floor operations, told CNBC.com. "We were glad for the timing because if he came during the Fed announcement, it would have been a conflict for people."
The president left the exchange floor before the Federal Reserve announced at 2:15 pm that it was leaving interest rates unchanged. Trading normally slows before a Fed announcement. Stocks immediately rallied after the Fed decision as investors took the central bank's statement to mean that policymakers were less worried about inflation.
Ronald Reagan was the first sitting President to visit the NYSE in 1985 and he also made a surprise visit to the trading floor. Bill Clinton visited the NYSE in early 2000 as president, although he appeared after trading hours.
Earlier in the day, President Bush delivered a "State of the Economy" speech at the landmark Federal Hall on Wall Street, which is across from the NYSE building.
In the speech, Bush complained about the size of corporate executive pay packages and urged boards to make sure they were tied more closely to company performance.
"Government should not decide the compensation for America's corporate executives. But the salaries and bonuses of CEOs should be based on their success at improving their
companies and bringing value to their shareholders," Bush said
Speaking in the building's rotunda to an an audience that included New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Mayor Ed Koch, Bush said shareholders should know the exact details of
executive pay packages.
"The print ought to be big and understandable. When people analyze their investment ... they ought to be able to see with certainty the nature of the compensation packages for people
entrusted to run the companies in which they have invested," Bush said.